Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made history by becoming, at age 23, the youngest Super Bowl-winning QB ever. What's even more amazing, the Steelers won even though Roethlisberger's passer rating was lower than his age.
The Packers lived and died with Brett Favre last season. More often than not, they died. Assuming Favre comes back, the Packers must become less reliant on No. 4. When Roethlisberger struggled, Cowher basically took the ball out of his quarterback's hand. The Steelers' running game was anything but great, but it got the job done — namely, it helped Pittsburgh win the field-position battle. You don't have to have a great running game to consistently win games, as Pittsburgh demonstrated by sweeping through its playoff gauntlet by averaging a mere 3.7 yards per rush. You just have to run the ball good enough.
It goes without saying that this becomes infinitely more important if Favre retires and the offense falls into the lap of untested Aaron Rodgers.
2. Go on the offensive on defense
They don't call Pittsburgh's defense "Blitzburg" for nothing. The Steelers blitz early and often, to stop and the run and harass the passer. It effectively kept NFL MVP Shaun Alexander under wraps. Yes, Alexander rushed 20 times for 95 yards, but the Steelers prevented the big play.
When the running game isn't overwhelmingly productive, coaches tend to shy away from it. That was the case Sunday, with Seattle passing it more than twice as often as it ran it. That played into Pittsburgh's hands. Except for one poorly thrown pass that resulted in an interception, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck handled the blitz well, but most quarterbacks aren't in Hasselbeck's league.
Yes, Jim Bates led a defensive revival last season. The Packers' problem was the defense created a minimal amount of big plays. Blitzing helps offset a lackluster pass rush, and it forces the kinds of bad decisions that lead to interceptions.
3. Show some guts
Pittsburgh has a blue-collar image, but no team relies on trick plays more than do the Steelers. With Roethlisberger struggling, Cowher ran a double-reverse pass, with wide receiver Antwaan Randle El — a Badgers-killing quarterback at Indiana University — throwing a touchdown pass to Hines Ward.
The Steelers ran trick plays throughout the postseason — remember the backward pass to Roethlisberger, who threw deep for a touchdown in the AFC championship game at Denver? The Packers ran trick plays practically never, which was a huge mistake by Mike Sherman and his staff, considering the offense's inability to score a lot of points last season.
4. Big plays win games/big mistakes lose games
Whether it was the Randle El-to-Ward touchdown pass, Willie Parker's record-breaking touchdown run, a big punt return by Randle El or a momentum-changing defensive play by Troy Polamalu, the Steelers rolled through the preseason on the strength of big plays.
Certainly, not having Javon Walker or Ahman Green last season deprived the Packers practically any chance to have a big play on offense. The Packers compounded their problems with Favre's interceptions; big plays for the opposition. On the other side of the ball, the Packers haven't had a playmaker on defense since LeRoy Butler retired.
Meanwhile, Favre's interceptions clearly were a killer. But beyond that, look at Seattle's blunders on Sunday. Tight end Jerramy Stevens dropped three passes that would have gained at least 70 yards. One penalty wiped out a touchdown while another wiped out a gain to the Steelers' 2-yard line. Another penalty eliminated a big punt return.
More often than not during the regular season, teams lose games, they don't win them. That may not be the recipe for playoff success, but it's generally good enough during the season. Teams that can eliminate mistakes while making big plays are the teams that are truly special.
5. Bright coaches to develop players
There's more to a coaching staff than the head coach, and there's more to a coaching staff than the X's and O's scheming of the coordinators.
In Seattle, quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn helped harness Hasselbeck, turning him from a Favre wannabe into perhaps the NFC's best quarterback. In Pittsburgh, Ken Whisenhunt's two years as offensive coordinator coincided with Roethlisberger's rise from rookie first-round pick to budding star.
Time will tell if offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements have the right stuff to craft Rodgers into a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. What we know for sure is, the near-term future of the Packers depends on their ability to do just that.
Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to email@example.com.