Super Bowl: Steelers embrace underdog role
PITTSBURGH ó The mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, equipped with a record six Super Bowl titles, a 14-4 record, the No. 2 AFC seed and a veteran roster on the verge of three championships in the past six seasons, are underdogs for Super Bowl XLV.
Donít worry. Itís not you. It doesnít make much sense to the Steelers, either.
But here Pittsburgh is, fresh off its 24-19 win over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Sunday night, installed by the Las Vegas oddsmakers as about a three-point underdog against Green Bay (13-6), the NFCís No. 6 seed.
ěI kind of donít understand what everybody sees that we donít see,î Steelers defensive back Ike Taylor said.
For a team that wasnít picked by many to win its division, told it would get off to a rocky start without its suspended quarterback for the first four games and fought through it all to get to the franchiseís record-tying eighth Super Bowl, being the underdog is a role the Steelers are eager to embrace.
ěI think we do our best when weíre underdogs,î Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke said. ěPeople were talking at the beginning of the season, how we were going to go 6-10 or 7-9. And how two years ago, when we went to the Super Bowl in ë08, we had the toughest schedule in NFL history, ëAre they going to be able to make it out of this schedule?í
ěI think when you put our backs against the wall, when you tell us that weíre an underdog and we canít do something, thatís when we fight and weíre at our best.î
The franchiseís most recent run of championships began when it slipped into the playoffs as a No. 6 seed, upset three teams with better records on the road and beat the NFCís top seed, Seattle, 21-10, in Super Bowl XL, on Feb. 5, 2006.
Nineteen players from that team are on this roster in a season in which it played its first four games with a third-, and then a fourth-string quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger was suspended by the league until Week 5, and backup Byron Leftwich sustained a knee sprain during the preseason. That meant Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch quarterbacked the Steelers to a surprising 3-1 start. Four months later, theyíre packing their bags for Dallas.
ěWe like to go into every game as underdogs,î receiver Mike Wallace said.
But maybe ó at least in Taylorís eyes ó itís wishful thinking on the part of Pittsburgh critics.
ěI feel like, deep down, in the back of peopleís heads, they really donít want us to win,î Taylor said. ěPeople donít like successful people. Just the tradition we have here, the success we have here, I just feel that a lot of people donít want us to succeed. Theyíre getting tired of seeing the same people over and over again.
ěUntil that happens, Iím just glad to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.î
And why not? Taylor was drafted by a team that has advanced to the AFC championship game in half of his eight seasons. Add that run to the lore of the Steel Curtain teams of the 1970s ó a unit that won four Super Bowls in six years, becoming the first true dynasty in the Super Bowl era ó and the Steelers have quite the tradition for a bunch of underdogs.
ěYou come here and see the pictures on the wall,î Hoke said. ěJoe Greene and all those great guys on defense. Terry Bradshaw on offense, Franco Harris, thereís too many to name. You know thereís a standard here, and you know that winning is an expectation. Youíre not hoping to win ó youíre expecting to win here.î
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