Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, center, puts on his helmet as he and teammates wide receiver Hines Ward (86) and tight end Heath Miller (83) get set to run a play during practice on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011, in Fort Worth, Texas.
DALLAS (AP) — If it all were all about hair, the Steelers would already be champs.
Sure, Green Bay's Clay Matthews has a head full of golden strands, but he's got nothing on Pittsburgh's comb-defying combo of Brett Keisel's phenomenal facial hair and Troy Polamalu's luscious locks.
Keisel kiddingly — we think — bragged that his overgrown beard has Super Bowl powers, but there are plenty of other clean-cut reasons Mike Tomlin will deliver the Steelers their seventh title. Just ask Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, who knows a thing or two about winning the NFL's biggest game.
"I think the Steelers defensively are outstanding," said the two-time Super Bowl champion coach. "And then the quarterback just keeps plays going. ... I just think the Steelers are stronger overall."
That doesn't bode well for the Packers on Sunday night, even though they're 2½-point favorites.
"We've always done pretty well as the underdog," Pittsburgh team president Art Rooney II said. "That doesn't bother me in the least."
Or anyone else on the Steelers, for that matter.
"The majority of the experts felt that they are a better team than us," safety Ryan Clark said. "So, we are just going to go out and play hard and we are going to be as physical as possible."
That aggressive approach might give the Steelers one of their biggest advantages. Opponents have the black and blues to prove it.
"We have got to hit them," Clark said. "That includes stopping the run, getting to their quarterback, hitting their receivers when they catch the ball and not allowing runs after the catch. It is going to be a physical game from a very physical defense. I think that is the only way to combat their explosiveness."
Beware Aaron Rodgers, because that's where Polamalu and James Harrison come in.
One's got the hair, the other's got the mouth. Bottom line, they're two of a kind when it comes to game-changing plays.
Even against scrambling quarterbacks — and Rodgers is one of the best — Polamalu is a matchup nightmare with the way he freelances in the secondary. One play, he can break off coverage and zip in for a sack; the next, he can make a spectacular move to break up a pass.
Green Bay has an impressive defense of its own, but Dick LeBeau's aggressive "fire zone" blitz scheme could make it a long night for even Rodgers.
Harrison leads a physical bunch of linebackers, that will combine with hefty defensive linemen Keisel, Casey Hampton and Ziggy Hood, and prove too much for a Packers running game that lacks consistency and experience. Shutting that part of the offense down will severely limit Rodgers' ability to get the ball down the field.
"We know they're going to try to run the ball," linebacker James Farrior said. "I don't think they can throw the ball every play."
With the defense holding down the Packers' offense, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers can turn to Rashard Mendenhall to chew up yardage, as well as the clock, against Green Bay's front seven. That's been the game plan all season: Run, run and run, even if it's not working early.
In the last several games, Mendenhall has helped wear down opposing defenses. In the AFC championship game, he ran for 121 yards, the most this season against the Jets. That came a week after he ran for 46 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Baltimore — not big-time numbers, but helped Pittsburgh get out to an early lead.
And, if Mendenhall can't pound through defenders, Roethlisberger will take care of all that. He's nowhere near as elusive as Rodgers, but he dares you to try to take him down. That's when the fun starts.
Roethlisberger becomes even more dangerous when he's in trouble on the field, seemingly making something out of nothing. Just as he did to get the Steelers here, when he converted a third-down pass to Antonio Brown against the Jets when he rolled out and threw — surprising New York's defense and coach Rex Ryan.
"Ben does a great job of somehow getting out of pressure and making plays downfield," said tight end Heath Miller. "We're not going to plan for that to happen, but if it does and Ben makes a great play, then that will be good."
Don't expect Roethlisberger to get rattled by the spotlight of the big stage — or any of his Steelers teammates. Pittsburgh has 16 players on its roster going for their third Super Bowl ring in six seasons.
"A lot of us have gone through this a couple of times," Keisel said. "Hopefully it is an advantage. I am not saying it is, but hopefully it is."
They just haven't had many bad hair days lately. So, don't expect one Sunday — until all that black and gold confetti gets stuck in it after the game.
Tuesday, February 20 2018 2:27 PM EST2018-02-20 19:27:03 GMT
Canadian stars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold medal in ice dancing at the Pyeongchang Games on Tuesday, becoming the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history with a dazzling, dramatic free skate...
Canadian stars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the gold medal in ice dancing at the Pyeongchang Games on Tuesday, becoming the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history with a dazzling, dramatic free skate set to the music of "Moulin Rouge.".