The Steelers were not dominating in any one area this past season, but they did enough to win - bottom line. Look no further than their 20-10 victory over the Packers last season at Lambeau Field. The Packers had every opportunity to win that game, but three turnovers that the Steelers turned into 17 points killed their chances.
It was no different on Sunday. Pittsburgh took advantage Seattle's penalties, dropped passes, poor clock management and a critical fourth-quarter interception by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to win their fifth Super Bowl. The Steelers played good defense, were solid on special teams and used a key gadget play – wideout Antwaan Randle El's 43-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Hines Ward for a touchdown with 9:04 remaining to practically seal the game.
What can the Packers learn from the Steelers and apply to the 2006 season? Hopefully new head coach Mike McCarthy clearly has seen that a team doesn't need its quarterback to carry the load. Ben Roethlisberger did not have the best of games on Sunday, but he also didn't try to win the game by himself. Roethlisberger threw a horrible pass that Kelly Herndon of the returned a record 76 yards and set up the Seahawks' only touchdown. Otherwise, the 23-year-old used his legs, barely squeaking into the end zone for a first-half touchdown, and helped the Steelers convert enough second-half first downs to hold off the Seahawks.
Whether Brett Favre returns or retires, McCarthy hopefully will revamp Green Bay's West Coast offense enough to spread the ball around more. Green Bay's offense has all the potential to be explosive again next season without relying on Favre, or Aaron Rodgers, to do it all. The Packers have plenty of weapons at tight end, wide receiver and running back. If McCarthy can utilize all areas and incorporate a few gadget plays to keep defenses a little more honest and make it a little more fun for the offense, expect a drastic turnaround in Green Bay.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and McCarthy already have hinted that the Packers plan to be a little more "smash mouth" with their offense during the upcoming season. Hopefully, the coaches will stick to their vows because that's the best way of eliminating turnovers and controlling the ball. The Packers will have to use free agency and the draft to upgrade the offensive line, but it helps that younger linemen like Will Whitticker and Scott Wells have gained some experience.
If the offense can improve and the defense continue to improve, then it will be up to the special teams to hold up its end of the bargain. Veteran special teams coordinator Mike Stock is rejuvenated, after taking a year off to rehab his ailing hip, and chomping at the bit to rehab Green Bay's ailing special teams.
Is there reason for hope in Green Bay in 2006? Certainly, especially if the Packers follow the Steelers blueprint for success in the NFL. With McCarthy being a Pittsburgh native, expect nothing less. The Packers will need to obtain more help, and develop a decent chemistry, but that's what the off-season is all about. This is why the NFL is so entertaining each season. In the span of a year, a team can go from worst to first with key moves, limited injuries and turnovers. Or, like with the Packers last season, go from first to worst due to a lack of moves, many injuries and many turnovers.
The Packers have made some moves already by changing the coaching staff. If general manager Ted Thompson can make some key player personnel moves this off-season in free agency and the draft, and the new staff gives the players a fighting chance to make plays, anything can happen, even a Super Bowl victory. The Steelers proved that this season.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.