DALLAS You won't catch the Steelers yawning.
With the majority of their roster playing in a third Super Bowl in six years, the hoopla and pageantry of the NFL’s title game could start to get redundant. They know the routine, from how to handle odd media day questions to living in a sequestered hotel to dealing with gameday oddities such as warming up amid on-field performances and an extended halftime.
Logic would dictate that the team with experience would have the advantage so long as experience does not rot into complacency like unplucked fruit. But the Steelers are arriving in Dallas today with anything but a ho-hum attitude.
“It’s just as exciting. It’s more exciting,” said nose tackle Chris Hoke, one of the many third-timers. “For us older guys, we know that there are more years behind us than ahead of us, so there was a sense of urgency to get back here again. We are fired up. We are excited to be here. We know it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning, and we have to get prepared for the game.”
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The Steelers have won six Super Bowls, more than any other franchise. Four were in six seasons in the 1970s, and now they are six days away from a possible seventh. It’s enough to start considering spelling Pittsburgh in Roman numerals.
“It’s the legacy that is here,” Hoke said. “You think back to the Steel Curtain days of the ’70s. You come here and see the pictures on the walls, you hear people talk about Joe Greene and all of those great guys on defense, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris on offense. There are too many to name.
“You know there is a standard here. Winning is an expectation. You aren’t hoping to win, you are expected to win.”
Not everyone is as steeped in Steelers tradition. But the ones who are do their best to acquaint the others.
“This never gets old,” said cornerback Ike Taylor, another with two Steelers rings. “I am fortunate and blessed. This is my third trip in eight years (in the NFL). Flozell Adams has been playing in the league for 13 years and has never had the chance to go to the Super Bowl. I told him from training camp on we are going to get you back home to the Super Bowl.”
Although the core of the Steelers has remained pretty much intact since 2005 –Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu – there are some who have appreciated the success only from the outside. Then there’s linebacker Larry Foote, who won twice with the Steelers, left, and came back for a chance at a third title.
Foote signed with his hometown Lions after winning Super Bowl XLIII two years ago. That one season away from Pittsburgh helped him appreciate what had been accomplished during his time there, and he re-signed with the black and gold this past offseason.
“That is Pittsburgh, period,” Foote said. “Wherever you are, that is the way it is. The guys in the 1970s created that. If you don’t win the Super Bowl, it’s a bust. You have to do your best to follow suit.”
The Packers are not exactly a lore-less franchise. The trophy is named after their greatest coach, after all. But this is Green Bay’s first trip to the Super Bowl since 1998, so long ago that Brett Favre was in his prime.
Foote noted that the defensive meeting room he and his teammates sit in every day during the season is next to the room where the six Lombardi Trophies are kept. There’s no other NFL trophy room with as many. Foote returned hoping to add one more.
“A lot of people hope to win the Super Bowl, they dream about it,” he said. “I knew before I came back here we had done it twice before and we had a good chance of doing it. That’s why I wanted to come back.”
Back to Pittsburgh. And back to the Super Bowl.