Ghosts of Lombardis Past: What the Steelers Can Learn from Their Past Big Games
In a Super Bowl Filled with history, tradition, and a expectation of excellence, it is only fitting to do what ESPN and the NFL network have done: look to the past. With the Pittsburgh Steelers, the names of coaches, players and fans may have changed, but the style and mentality of all have not. The fans are still waving yellow pieces if cloth, the players still play hard and aggressive, and the coaching philosophy has essentially stayed the same. So it only makes sense then to break out the tape of Super Bowls of old and see what the Black and Gold can learn from their last seven appearances on the big stage.
Super Bowl IX: Control the Line of Scrimmage
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This Super Bowl will forever be known for the Steel Curtain holding the Vikings to a pathetic 17 yards rushing and a total offensive production of just 119 yards. This defensive performance was due in large part to the leadership of Joe Greene on the line and Dwight White who had lost 15 pounds to pneumonia during the week. On offense, Franco Harris rushed for 158 yards due in large point to the offensive line who had to handle the infamous Purple People Eaters.
This performance on both sides of the line is what the Steelers needs to emulate today. The offensive line must handle the over 1,000 pound Packer line led by B.J. Raji. Defensively, the battered defensive line has stepped up their performance must perform one last time and create pressure on the gunslinger Aaron Rodgers.
Super Bowl X: Big Play Potential
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What made this Super Bowl special for the Steelers was the emergence of Terry Bradshaw the clutch quarterback. Backed in the shadow of their own end zone, the Steelers Lynn Swann made a better than spectacular catch to give the Steelers momentum. Swann would win the MVP award because of four similar catches during the game.
Another huge play was a missed snap by Dallas on a punt attempt which resulted in a Pittsburgh safety. The ensuing rally to win the game for the Steelers has largely been attributed to Jack Lambert's defense of kicker Roy Gerela after a missed kick, when Hollywood Henderson thanked Gerela for helping the Cowboys. Lambert proceeded to throw Henderson to the ground. T
he Steelers today need to remember that the big plays in the biggest game often swing momentum so much, that it can result in victory. Watch for Ben Roethlisberger to look deep for Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders early on or in tight situations.
Super Bowl XIII: Capitalize on Miscues
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In what many Steelers fans consider the greatest Super Bowl ever, this game featured sloppy play and miscues on both sides of the ball. Both teams had three turnovers and missed chances to score due to penalties or mental lapses (sorry Jackie Smith) and the difference came down to opportunistic execution. The Steelers capitalized on turnovers and scored on resulting drives and when questionable calls were made, were able to turn those opportunities into points. The Cowboys were not.
In this game, neither team wants to or has a history of making mistakes this season. If the Steelers want to win this game, they will have to capitalize on an Aaron Rodgers interception or James Starks fumble if the opportunity arises. James Harrison, strip sack king, could win MVP if he is able to have success rushing off the edge, causing these turnovers.
Super Bowl XIV: Use the Experience
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At the half, the Steelers were trailing to the young and injured Los Angeles Rams 13-10. Steeler nation was worried that possibly, this dynasty was too old. However, the iconic image is Chuck Noll smiling as he jogged into the tunnel. Yes, Chuck Noll was SMILING. Why was the stoic Noll so relaxed? The Steelers had the experience. He knew the Steelers would make the adjustments, players would step up, and ultimately, win the game. The Steelers came out in the second half and outscored the Rams 21-6 and players like John Stallworth and Jack Lambert came up with key plays to secure a then record fourth Lombardi trophy.
Today, the Steelers have the clear experience edge. From practices to team photos, the Steelers know exactly what needs to be done to win this game. The Steelers have the experience to come from behind (Divisional round) hold a lead (AFC Championship) and Mike Tomlin knows how to coach even though he is so young.
Super Bowl XXX: Coach with Guts
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Even though the Steelers lost this game, it was not for lack of trying from the Coaching staff. Bill Cowher coached this game with more guts than ever expected. The onside kick, goal line stands and defense performance was classic Cowher. Unfortunately, assuming that Neil O'Donnell was not high, drunk, or paid off, there was serious issues on the field with communication.
As a result, no coaching could help the Steelers stop the Cowboys dynasty. In this game, the teams are almost identical. As a result you have to look to where teams differ and in the coaching department. Mike Tomlin and his staff have more experience on this stage than Mike McCarthy. McCarthy is traditionally more conservative and to quote my All State Lineman Zack Palmer "Tomlin is more likely to go for it on fourth down and three in the fourth." That's the kind of coaching guts that typically pays off in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XL: Bring Out the Gadgets
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The trick play has become a staple for the Steelers ever since Antwan Randle El was drafted in 2002. The fact that both Randle El and Hines Ward played quarterback at their respective colleges opens the playbill wide for the Steelers. In this game, while Wille Parker's record setting run was huge, the nail in the Seahawks' coffin was nailed in by Antwan's reverse pass to Ward, a play they ran against Cleveland earlier in the 2005 season.
This year, reports coming out of Pittsburgh whispered that the Steelers had one trick play involving an usual quarterback making a big play. It was never broken out against the Ravens or Jets. The Steelers should not be afraid to throw out the trick play to gain momentum. Whether it's Hines, Antwan, or someone new, these plays will be the difference the Steelers need to win.
Super Bowl XLIII: In Ben We Trust
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This game was to Ben Roethlisberger what Super Bowl X was for Terry Bradshaw. Both players showed they had the ability to be the big time players even if the did not win the MVP award in those games. Ben battled through the game to get one, final drive, in which Ben completed 7 passes, six of which were on broken plays. The final pass floated over Cardinals' defenders into the hands of Santonio Holmes. Ben battled through an early safety and battered offensive line play to lead the Steelers and establish himself in the NFL as a clutch player. Perhaps this lesson is most important to learn. The Steelers will try to run on the Packers in their 2-4-5 passing down front. The Steelers' coaches must realize that in a tight game or situation give the ball to Ben. He will win the game.