The Pittsburgh Steelers hold a decided advantage over the Green Bay Packers in one important Super Bowl category -- experience.
Fourteen of Pittsburgh’s 22 starters have won a Super Bowl ring with the organization. Ten were members of the Steelers’ championship teams in both 2005 and 2008, a group that includes quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, receiver Hines Ward, linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu.
Overall, 25 Steelers have played in a Super Bowl. Only two players on Green Bay’s 53-man roster -- Ryan Pickett and Charles Woodson -- have appeared in the National Football League’s title game, and both lost.
“They’re a veteran team and an experienced team,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the Steelers during a news conference yesterday. “This is not their first go around. They’ve definitely been through this experience before, where we have not. We understand that.”
While the Steelers have won a record six Super Bowl titles in seven appearances, oddsmakers have listed them as 2 1/2-point underdogs against the Packers in the Feb. 6 game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Former Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who won four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s and is now an NFL analyst for News Corp.’s Fox, said the Steelers’ pedigree gives them the advantage.
“I can’t tell you how much experience is worth in this game,” Bradshaw said on the FoxSports website. “It’s very valuable, especially when you are dealing with adversity.”
Pickett, a defensive end, lost a Super Bowl as a rookie for the St. Louis Rams after the 2001 season, while Woodson, a cornerback, played for the Oakland Raiders team that lost in the title game the following season.
No Green Bay players remain from the last Packers team to reach the Super Bowl 13 years ago.
Super Bowl experience aside, the Steelers and Packers are similar in their makeup, with a reliance on homegrown talent.
Eighteen of Pittsburgh’s 22 offensive and defensive starters were selected in the NFL draft or signed as undrafted free agents. The number would be 20 if not for injuries to offensive linemen Willie Colon and Max Starks.
Of the Packers’ 22 starters, 19 were acquired through the draft or as undrafted free agents out of college.
Only 10 of the Washington Redskins’ 22 starters this season began their careers with the organization, as a comparison.
“It’s how you piece it all together,” McCarthy said. “Everything you do has to be about your culture; making sure you have the right individuals in the locker room.”
McCarthy, in his fifth season as coach, is seeking to bring a record 13th NFL championship to Green Bay. He grew up in Pittsburgh as a Steelers fan, rooting for the teams that won four titles from 1974 to 1980. The 47-year-old coach said he counts the Steelers as his second-favorite NFL team.
“They just have so much consistency how they acquire personnel, how they treat their players, how their organization is run,” McCarthy said. “And I think that’s a huge part of their success.”