The championship game puts the focus back on the field after a long, cold week in North Texas that included two wintry storms with snow and ice. There were no weather woes inside $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium, and it wasn’t bad outside either on game day.
The game comes 3 1/2 weeks before the current collective bargain agreement expires. If the NFL and the players’ union can’t reach a new labor pact, there could be a lockout.
Deion Sanders, one of seven former players elected to the Hall of Fame this weekend, tossed the coin. The Packers won the toss, and deferred their choice to the start of the second half.
The 45th Super Bowl, the NFL’s signature event, pitted two of its storied franchises and capped a season that saw the league reach new heights of popularity despite a string of off-field incidents and that potential lockout with the current CBA expiring next month.
The Steelers came in looking for their seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy. Green Bay has three, taking the first two Super Bowls under Lombardi’s guidance and winning another in 1997.
The Packers also won six NFL championship games before there was a Super Bowl. In an age of tweeting players and 24/7 Super Bowl week coverage, these teams would probably look familiar to the Steelers and Packers of 1933, the first year both franchises were in the league.
Each has a dynamic defense led by the top two vote-getters for Defensive Player of the Year, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, the runner-up. Both have playmaking quarterbacks who have risen to elite status, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Pittsburgh won the AFC North, earning the second seed, while the Packers got into the playoffs as a wild-card and beat three division champions on the road to reach the Super Bowl.
If it comes down to the quarterbacks, each team will be fine with that. Rodgers has been unstoppable in the last five games, all must wins. Roethlisberger was hoping to join Tom Brady and Troy Aikman with three Super Bowl rings, and he’s only in his seventh pro season.
Even as Super Bowl events came off on schedule, the wintery weather this week disrupted travel and celebrations all week. Falling ice injured several people outside Cowboys Stadium two days before the game.
There were hassles on game day. A section of temporary seats high up in the western end of cavernous Cowboys Stadium were not ready in time and the NFL said anyone not “accommodated with seats inside the stadium” will receive three times face value of the ticket.