Here We Go: 'Great, Remarkable Story'

The Steelers are unified like never before and are hoping to win their 7th Lombardi Trophy today while making the commissioner "eat humble pie."

DALLAS – After a week of non-stop talking without anyone really saying much, it came as a surprise that commissioner Roger Goodell summed up Super Bowl 45 best:

"When you say Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers," Goodell said at his state of the league speech Friday.

He paused and then continued:

"That's football. That's football."

Goodell got it right – maybe for the first time this season.

He opened the season by suspending the Steelers' quarterback for mere statement's sake, and he opened Super Bowl week by taking a backhanded jab at that quarterback who had already served his punishment, did his time.

It's served to unify a team that enters today's Super Bowl as an underdog against an organization that hasn't played in one since January, 1998.

"It's just a great, remarkable story," said Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. "To see how we started the year, and here we are with a chance to win a third Super Bowl."

It would be Ward's third; the Steelers' seventh. With Ward, the Steelers won Super Bowls 40 and 43. Ward was the MVP of the first and played through a serious knee injury in the second.

This season he's been the bedrock, the true spokesman and leader, which was a bit of a transformation for a player who seemed to be on the outs with the quarterback and who was being viewed by some as a divisive personality in the locker room.

But before the first afternoon practice at training camp, Ward looked at Ben Roethlisberger sitting alone with his thoughts in the locker room. Ward walked over to the guy with whom he has what he calls a "big brother-little brother" relationship.

"It's just you see someone all the time and you get on each other's nerves sometimes," Ward explained.

"But all day that was the big thing," Ward continued. "How would the crowd respond to Ben on his first day? And he was actually nervous about it. I read some of his quotes. He was sitting on the table waiting to go out, and I said ‘Ben, wait. Let me walk out with you. If they boo you, they're going to boo me too and they're going to boo this organization.' So we walked out there together."

The fans cheered. And the season started.

This week shows the season ending the same way, with the Steelers a unified bunch. They took umbrage at Goodell's published comments about Roethlisberger at the beginning of the week, and they're determined to make Goodell "eat humble pie like he never has before," as Max Starks told Pittsburgh Clear Channel's Tim Benz this week. But will unification be enough? Las Vegas has installed Green Bay as a 2-point favorite with reason.

Here's a look into the numbers of the Packers' and Steelers' five common opponents this season:

In the numbers from those six games, the Packers hold a distinct advantage (+3.9) in overall scoring efficiency (offensive and defensive yards per point) and a solid edge in pass defense. The Steelers hold a distinct advantage in run offense/defense (+1.7), but that will be diminished by the loss of center Maurkice Pouncey, who's injured and will be replaced by Doug Legursky.

In the numbers from the last five games of each team, the Packers' edge in scoring efficiency widened, and against a more difficult schedule. The Steelers remained the stouter team at the line of scrimmage, and their pass-defense numbers improved greatly late in the season (as stats against Jimmy Clausen will tend to do).

Good or bad, the Steelers' pass defense will likely be the critical element of today's game. That, and the big-game experience of what's truly become a "Band of Brothers."

"This year is a special team because of what we had to overcome," said Ward. "To start the season off without our starting quarterback, a bunch of people thought we were done. It's been hard on a lot of guys, but we're a close-knit group. And here we are."

Yes, here they are. Deal with them.

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