Steelers are more complete, experienced team in SBXLV

DALLAS -- It's easy to get caught up in the Green Bay Packers' offensive fireworks, to assume that Aaron Rodgers will find his climate-controlled comfort zone under the Cowboys Stadium roof and do to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday what he did to the Atlanta Falcons a few weeks ago.

Go with the hot hand, right?

Except there are a few problems with that theory.

One, that hot hand went a little bit cold the last time it was throwing a football in anger, which was the second half of the NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears.

Two, that hot hand -- along with the rest of Rodgers' body and his Packer teammates -- will be contending with something they didn't face in Atlanta or anywhere else this season: The best and nastiest defense in the NFL. Yes, he did throw for 383 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers' 37-36 loss to the Steelers in 2009, but that was in 2009. And it wasn't in the Super Bowl.

Three, the Steelers simply have far too much Super Bowl experience to lose a game against an opponent that hasn't played for the NFL crown in 13 years and is here largely on the strength of a late-season surge rather than any sort of consistent dominance.

This cannot be said enough: The Steelers are about to play in their eighthSuper Bowl. Their sixSuper Bowl victories are the most in NFL history.

"It's huge," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We want to bring home number seven. That's been our goal all year long, to get to this point. We have a great opportunity. It's right in front of us. We've got to reach out and grab it."

The prize that will be awarded after Sunday's game is named after Packers icon Vince Lombardi. But the fact is, Green Bay has a grand total of three Super Bowl wins, and this will be its fifth appearance in the big game.

If the Steelers do win a seventh Lombardi Trophy, wouldn't it be fair to at least consider giving the Rooneys -- the family that has owned them since 1933 -- a share of the billing on the hardware?

Don't get me wrong. The Packers are a very nice story. Their ability to overcome 15 players on injured reserve, including some key difference-makers on both sides of the ball, is truly remarkable. The same goes for Rodgers' near-perfect performance against the Falcons and his impressive play, with his arm and extremely quick feet, throughout the season. You also can't help but admire the way he handled himself through the difficult transition of replacing Brett Favre, and appreciate the tremendous satisfaction he must feel as he stands on the brink of finally escaping the shadow of a legend.

But the Steelers are simply the more complete team. They have a more-than-adequate answer for Rodgers in Ben Roethlisberger, who already has quarterbacked them to a pair of Super Bowl wins. Roethlisberger's style isn't pretty. He's burly and looks much more like a lumberjack than a quarterback. He often ends up with part or all of his jersey hanging over the outside of his pants.

Roethlisberger's calling card is strength and toughness, which he demonstrates by fending off defenders who usually end up hanging all over him as he constantly tries to extend plays. If that's not enough of an indicator, he also played with a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken nose during the regular season. He began the year by serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy and has been in rally mode ever since.

You don't think of him throwing with the same level of touch or accuracy as Rodgers or other top-notch passers. You don't necessarily count on him to have spectacular numbers, and the fact is, in the Steelers' AFC Championship Game victory against the New York Jets, he didn't. He threw two interceptions and finished with a passer rating of 35.5.

Yet, with the game on the line, Roethlisberger delivered, just as he has in many other games. On third-and-6, he rolled to his right and found rookie receiver Antonio Brown for a 14-yard game that sealed the outcome.

"The guy wins," Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke said of Roethlisberger. "It doesn't matter what he does. It doesn't matter if his stats are low. He always makes that key drive. He always makes that key play. He's always doing whatever he needs to do to win the game.

"Some of these guys have bigger stats and these guys are more flashy, but Ben always wins. He's going to have a big win on Sunday -- his third Super Bowl ring -- and that puts him in an elite class."

The Steelers have the better rushing attack, led by Rashard Mendenhall. He and the battered Pittsburgh offensive line proved that it absolutely can dominate on the ground when necessary, as the Steelers generated 166 rushing yards and averaged 3.9 yards per carry against a stout Jets defense to reach the Super Bowl. Mendenhall ran for a game-high 121 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

And most of that came after standout rookie center Maurkice Pouncey left the field with an ankle injury.

Most of all, the Steelers have the better defense. They have a defense that can take away whatever hope the Packers have of running the ball effectively -- something they've been able to do since rookie James Starks began proving to be a reliable replacement for injured Ryan Grant -- and force them to become one-dimensional.

That not only will test Rodgers' ability to handle the ferocious pass rush from outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, it also will challenge the fact that he has never been on this stage before. His elusiveness will help, but only to a certain point. Eventually, with no ground attack to help slow the Steelers rush, Rodgers is likely to make some mistakes. It is reasonable to assume that he'll start to hurry throws and put some up that Pittsburgh's opportunistic secondary will be ready to snatch.

This takes us back to the topic of Super Bowl experience. The Steelers have so much of it, and so much championship success, that it isn't so much blather when they talk about doing things a certain way -- the Steeler Way.

"It's passed down from generation of Steelers to generation of Steelers through stories and actions," coach Mike Tomlin said. "The young guys who are brought in are taught how we do business. People embrace it, and they enjoy it. It's something great to be a part of. It comes from the Rooney family."

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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