No respect? Underdog status could benefit Steelers
It remains to be seen whether Vegas oddsmakers did the Steelers a disservice by installing the Green Bay Packers as the favorites in Super Bowl XLV.
They certainly did coach Mike Tomlin a favor by setting the early line at three points.
That will serve as one of many rallying points for the Steelers as they prepare for a Super Bowl that pits two of the NFL's most storied franchises against one another Feb. 6 in Dallas.
"I feel like we're always underdogs, even when they've got us covering the point spread," veteran cornerback Ike Taylor said Monday after team meetings at Steelers headquarters.
The respect card is perhaps the most overplayed one in sports, but it has worked for the Steelers.
In 2008, they took exception to the notion that a brutal regular-season schedule would be their undoing.
They promptly went 12-4 and won three postseason games on the way to a sixth Super Bowl title.
This season, they noticed when some pundits picked them to finish no better than third in the AFC North because of an aging defense and an absentee quarterback for the first four games.
Now they are one victory away from winning a third Super Bowl title in six years.
"I kind of don't understand what everybody sees that we won't see," Taylor said. "We talk about the local media having us going 8-8."
Maybe Taylor and the Steelers should be thanking those who predicted they would finish no better than .500.
They have not played particularly well in recent years when there have been high expectations -- or at least higher than usual for a franchise whose players walk past six Lombardi Trophies on a regular basis.
Conversely, the Steelers have been at their best when few outside of the organization have given them a chance of making the kind of run that will extend this season into February.
The Steelers, however, aren't underdogs any more than Bill Gates is.
And Taylor even acknowledged that when talking about the us-versus-everybody-else mentality that the Steelers embraced this season.
"People don't like successful people, regardless of how you make it. Just the tradition we have here, the success we have here, I just feel that a lot of people don't want us to succeed," Taylor said. "They're getting tired of seeing the same people over and over again. I guess they want to see somebody new."
Looks like they'll have to wait at least one more year for that to happen.
3 players to watch
Pedigreed player has been productive, as well as disruptive, since the Packers took him in first round of 2009 NFL Draft. The son and namesake of the former Browns linebacker, Matthews finished fourth in the NFL this season with 13 1⁄2 sacks.
Off week will give McFadden, who has been hampered by abdominal and hip injuries, extra time to heal. McFadden was part of an Arizona Cardinals secondary that got torched in a wild-card playoff win over the Packers last season.
Has thrown 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in four career postseason games. He is one victory away from winning as many Super Bowls in Green Bay as Brett Favre.
4 questions with steelers nose tackle and texas native casey hampton
What are your early thoughts on playing the Green Bay Packers?
"Their offense is real good; their defense is pretty much a mirror image of our defense. It's going to be a tough game, but at the end of the day, if we do what we're capable of doing, it's all about us. We should be OK."
Do you consider the Super Bowl a homecoming despite Galveston's lack of proximity to Dallas?
"Oh yeah, it's to the crib. Texas is my home. It's not the house-house but it is Texas, so it's going to be good."
Do you think that would anger the Cowboys if you won another Super Bowl in their stadium?
"Man, I ain't worried about what the Cowboys think, It's all about us. If they have a problem, they should have made it."
Did you have any doubts going into the season that you could get this far?
"No, because at the end of the day, we know we've got a veteran team, we've got a great defense. Our offense is young, but we knew as long as they came along, we'd be OK."
Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, on the decision to throw a pass on third-and-6 near the end of the AFC Championship Game:
"Coach (Mike Tomlin) said 'Win the game.' We had a play set Thursday night, that that's the play we would use and Ben (Roethlisberger) made an unbelievable throw and Antonio (Brown) got open. You can always play safe and run, punt, put your defense back out there but it's not as nice as kneeling down."
Right tackle Flozell Adams, on returning to Dallas where he played for 12 seasons before signing with the Steelers:
"I keep saying I don't care about where the Super Bowl is as long as it's the Super Bowl. It's like a great goal of mine has been accomplished, not fully accomplished because we haven't won yet. Now, we've got to go out there and win it."
Nose tackle Chris Hoke, on Mike Tomlin's imprint on the team when he took over as head coach in 2007
"When he first came in, he was hard core. In camp, we were in pads a couple of times a day, we were getting after it. He wanted to see who would and who wouldn't. He wanted to see the personality of this team. And once he knew the personality of this team, he was able to work with us."
BY THE NUMBERS
6 — Postseason games Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley needed to record 10 sacks, the fewest of any NFL player since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
7 — The previous record for fewest postseason games to reach 10 sacks, held by Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent, the MVP of Super Bowl XX
100.4 — Rushing yards per game the Packers averaged during the regular season, ranking 24th in the NFL
503 — Passing yards Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had in a 37-36 win against the Packers last season, a career-high. Roethlisberger and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers combined for 886 passing yards in that game.