Crowned champs again, Steelers say fame is fleeting in 'year-to-year' NFL

KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- There have been more star-studded dynasties, if that's what the Pittsburgh Steelers can be called after winning their second Super Bowl title in the last four seasons.

And the label might be a bit of a stretch, even to some of the Steelers' own players.

"I don't really know," Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior said. "It is quite an accomplishment, but the way the NFL is right now, there's so much parity in this league. You never know who's going to win it."

Judging by this year's Pro Bowl rosters, the Steelers didn't exactly inspire a whole lot of league-wide sentiment that they had what it took to win it all this season. They have just three players representing the AFC in Sunday's game at Aloha Stadium -- Farrior, fellow linebacker James Harrison and strong safety Troy Polamalu.

The New York Jets, who didn't even make the playoffs, have six (they would have had seven if quarterback Brett Favre didn't pull out of the game). The Tennessee Titans, who were bounced in the divisional round, have five (they would have had seven if running back Chris Johnson and center Kevin Mawae were here). The Cleveland Browns, whom the Steelers routinely dominate in the AFC North, also have three players here.

Even the Arizona Cardinals, who won three fewer games than the Steelers during the regular season and lost to them in Super Bowl XLIII, have five Pro Bowl players.

But that's OK with the Steelers, especially the three players who made the trip here -- but not until after being part of a parade in Pittsburgh, where more than 300,000 people braved a 20-degree day to show their appreciation for the franchise's league-best sixth Super Bowl championship.

Farrior, Harrison and Polamalu don't care about dynasty talk. They'd prefer to concentrate on what allowed them to win two Super Bowls rather than admire their achievement or define its place in NFL history.

"I know there's been a lot of talk about a repeat, and things like that, but that's just talk to pump up the crowd (during the parade), quite honestly," Polamalu said. "Because when we start really becoming focused on football, we'll focus on getting our team ready for (training) camp, and the next step of the process would be preseason. And throughout the season, you'll never hear us talking about (a dynasty)."

Said Harrison: "This run is over with. We've got to come in next year and start all over, from the bottom. It's a year-by-year thing. There's no level of how good I think we can be. It just depends on how much work we're willing to put in as a team, as coaches, (as an) organization. I don't feel there's a point to where you can say, 'Oh, we're just so good right now.'"

CardinalsPro Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner has been gracious about the Super Bowl loss, even if it did come down to late heroics and officiating controversy, but he doesn't sound convinced that the Steelers should be regarded as a dynasty.

"Dynasty is such a hard word in this day and age," Warner said. "Because I think, when you think of dynasty, you think of dominance over everybody else. Maybe dynasty in games won or titles won (applies to the Steelers), but I think there's just great parity around this league. You come into the playoffs this year, and I don't think anybody had any idea who was going to be in that final game. There were so many people that could be there.

"Yeah, (the Steelers) separated themselves and won the games and won the championship. But I look at dynasty different now. If they're going to be one, they're going to have to dominate a little bit more over the next couple of years, but you can't take anything away from what they've done over the last few and how well they've played."

Harrison seems in less of a mood to celebrate and reflect than Pittsburgh's other Pro Bowl players. He doesn't want to hear about the Steelers repeating as Super Bowl champions. He doesn't want to take part in any gushing over making one of the greatest plays in NFL history when he intercepted a Warner pass at the Pittsburgh goal line and returned the ball a Super Bowl-record 100 yards for a touchdown, fighting through tacklers and barreling across the goal line as time expired in the first half.

Anatomy of a Play

Harrison has refused to watch a replay of the Super Bowl because he knows "how it's going to end." He has seen a replay of his score, but he didn't admire his own effort. He marveled at the blocking he received from his teammates.

"I've got 10 other guys out there that are killing themselves, busting their butt to get down there so that we can make it to the other end zone," Harrison said. "Without those other 10 guys, I don't get probably past the 30."

To Harrison, looking back is a waste of time. He has never felt comfortable with reflecting on his accomplishments, perhaps because he understands that he needed to do so much more than everyone else to get to where he is and doesn't want to change his approach. He clearly sees greater lessons from being cut twice by the Steelers before earning a starting spot than becoming the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year or winning a second Super Bowl ring.

Regardless of how the previous season ends, Harrison begins preparing for the next the same way.

"I start the week after I get done with the last, whatever it is that I may be doing, playoffs or Pro Bowl," he said. "Even in between that week, I'm doing cardio (work) and light weight-lifting. I'm preparing each year as if I'm coming in to try to make the team."

Still, as humble as Harrison and his teammates might be, it would be hard not to view the Steelers as the favorites to contend for another Super Bowl title. They don't risk losing any key players to free agency. Dick LeBeau, the 71-year-old mastermind behind the NFL's top defense, plans to stick around for another season.

"We've got a lot of pieces still intact," Farrior said. "I don't think we're going to get hit by the free-agency market too bad. I don't think too many of our coaches are going to be leaving, either. We're going to have the same group, so we just have to have the same mindset -- the same focus and desire."

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