Harris: The experienced team wasn't the best team
ARLINGTON, Texas — Do it once, and they start to mention you among the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
Do it twice, and it's a one-way ticket to Canton, Ohio.
Super Bowl XLV presented a different challenge for the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers fell behind early. They never led. They made too many mistakes in a big game and didn't play with sharpness befitting a team vying for its third Super Bowl championship in six years.
Roethlisberger ran out of playoff magic against the upstart Green Bay Packers on Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium. This wasn't the mistake-prone Baltimore Ravens or the not-ready-for-prime-time New York Jets, the Steelers' first two playoff victims.
And, as Roethlisberger would agree, it wasn't the Arizona Cardinals of two years ago.
In Super Bowl XLIII, Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a miraculous touchdown drive to win the game in the closing minutes.
Against Green Bay at Cowboys Stadium, Roethlisberger was presented with the opportunity to repeat history. He couldn't do it.
Packers 31, Steelers 25.
Two years later, Roethlisberger's fourth-down pass intended for Mike Wallace against a battered secondary, minus injured star cornerback Charles Woodson, fell incomplete. There were no penalty flags, no second chances, just the bitter realization that a night that began with so much promise and optimism would end so swiftly and cruelly.
Given a final opportunity to pull off another football miracle, Roethlisberger just didn't have it. If he had led the Steelers to another game-winning touchdown, he would have earned his first Super Bowl MVP trophy. Instead, the honor went to Aaron Rodgers, who performed flawlessly and threw three touchdown passes in outdueling Roethlisberger.
"I feel like I let a lot of people down,'' Roethlisberger said.
The Steelers said they were ready for Super Bowl XLV. Maybe too ready.
The team with all the Super Bowl experience laid an egg in the big game. The Steelers could have learned a thing or two from the Packers, the team supposedly too young to know better.
"We didn't play well," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "The Packers were the better team.''
You can't start over again in the Super Bowl. When the Steelers fell behind, 14-0, in the first quarter, it was all they could do to make it 21-10 by halftime.
When the Steelers rallied to 21-17 in the third quarter and finally put some pressure on the Packers, they gave the momentum right back.
It was unexpected. Against an opponent with far less Super Bowl experience, it was unacceptable.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall, attempting to carry the sluggish offense on his back, coughed up the football when it appeared the Steelers were marching toward their first lead of the game.
The Packers did what champions do and capitalized on the mistake, scoring a touchdown for a 28-17 lead. The best the Steelers could do was make it 28-25 on Roethlisberger's 25-yard strike to Mike Wallace and an ensuing two-point conversion.
It wasn't coach Mike Tomlin's finest hour. The Steelers burned two timeouts in the third quarter, and Tomlin's decision to have Shaun Suisham attempt a 52-yard field goal when his defense had started turning things around looked foolish when Suisham missed badly.
Of course, 30 other teams would have liked to have been in the Steelers' place.
Unfortunately, that won't make this loss any easier to accept.
Super Bowl XLV
Super Bowl XLV is Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers at Cowboy's Stadium in Arlington, TX February 6, 2011.