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02-01-2009, 10:44 PM
Madden admires Steelers' methods


By Bill Beckner Jr.
Sunday, February 1, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. John Madden has seen hundreds of pro football games as a coach and color commentator. He has experienced winning and losing the Steelers haunted his Raiders in the 1970s and he's watched teams rise and fall both on the field and from the TV booth.

But the NFL legend says the model franchise, the trend-setter and envy of the league, is the one going for its sixth Super Bowl title today.

Madden has to be objective, but he was practically waving a Terrible Towel when the Steelers came up in conversation this week.

"It's just amazing," Madden said. "The game has changed, the players have changed, the rules have changed, the salary cap, the free agency. The Steelers are not only doing it, but their doing it with different systems. Whatever the system, they seem to adjust to it.

"I go back to 'The Chief,' Art Rooney, who of all the owners was always my favorite. I always thought he was one of the greatest guys in the whole world. He laid a foundation there. His message was simple: Be good to the people that work for you. That carried through to Dan and the whole Rooney family."

Madden, who began broadcasting games in 1979, will call Super Bowl XLIII on NBC with Al Michaels. The big game returns to the network for the first time since 1998 (Super Bowl XXXII, when Denver beat Green Bay, 31-24).

Madden has called 10 Super Bowls, the first in 1982 at the Pontiac Silverdome. Eight of them were with Pat Summerall.

Madden hasn't been in the booth for the Super Bowl since 2006, when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks for their fifth title on ABC. Madden was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame that weekend in Detroit.

Despite losing two conference championships (1974, '75) and a divisional playoff game to the Steelers (1972), Madden seems to have a greater fondness for their organization than any in the NFL.

"(The Rooneys) have patience," he said. "If every time something goes bad, or you hit a little dip, you up and fire everyone, you never get any consistency. They hired Chuck Noll in 1969, and since 1969, they've only had three coaches. That to me is patience. If Chuck didn't retire, he'd probably still be there. Mike Tomlin may still be there 30 years from now."

Remember, Madden was on the visiting sideline when the Immaculate Reception nearly nipped the turf at Three Rivers Stadium. Madden said he'll never get over Franco Harris' history-making play.

Madden eventually got his chance to experience NFL glory when he won Super Bowl XI in Pasadena.

Loyalty, Madden said, is what makes the Rooney family's plan work. He believes the rest of the league should follow their model.

Madden's announcing style is often imitated. He believes other teams should imitate the Steelers.

"It's something you'd think other owners could learn from," Madden said. "There's all this pressure to have to sell tickets, new stadiums and luxury boxes, and new hope and stuff. There's something to be said if you get it right."

Today will mark just the third Super Bowl for the team of Madden and Michaels, who have worked together on NBC's "Sunday Night Football" since 2006.

Unlike the Steelers' philosophies and approach, the Super Bowl has changed.

"It speaks to where the media's at. Years ago, it was just network television, maybe a few radio stations, the major newspapers," Michaels said. "Now, there's bloggers here, and Radio Row and the whole thing. It's exploded."

Michaels will call play-by-play in his seventh Super Bowl.

Business-wise, Madden believes the Steelers play their cards right. But if they literally play the Cards right Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, they'll have more Super Bowl titles than any team - a half-dozen, one for the other thumb, the six pack.

But Ben Roethlisberger must play well.

"It's tough to defend a quarterback that runs around," Madden said. "With Ben, everyone's covered, there's nothing there, and he still makes things happen. That is Pittsburgh's advantage. Ben will make five, six, seven plays; three or four will be big ones. Arizona needs to keep him in the pocket."

Madden said the Steelers lack an identity.

"I'm not sure what Pittsburgh is," he said. "They're not a running team. They're about Ben running back and scrambling around and throwing deep."

Neither Madden nor Michaels will predict a score for today's game.

"It's one of these rare games where you have two guys qt quarterback for their respective teams who have both won a Super Bowl," Michaels said. "They've been there; they know how to do it. But that's just part of it. There are 100 different ways you can look at this game. There's a little more mystery about this one than there has been in a long time."

Madden said it will come down to Kurt Warner against the Steelers' defense.

"(If you are the Cardinals), you have to run on passing downs and pass on running downs," he said. "If you get to third-and-long, and with the stuff (the Steelers) give you with the sub-defense, you have no idea where they're coming from."

The team that doesn't win today, Madden said, will have accomplished very little.

"The biggest gap in sports is the difference between the winner of the Super Bowl and the loser of the Super Bowl," Madden said. "Getting to the Super Bowl is nothing. (When the Raiders made it), I told them, 'We haven't done one damn thing. You have to win.' "

XLIII broadcast by the numbers

450 NBC employees who will be part of the production.

93 Microphones used (including 12 on-field parabolic microphones)

52 High-definition cameras (2 SD cameras for game and play clock)

50 Miles of camera and microphone cables

45 Vehicles (control trucks, mobile units, office trailers, Horse trailer)

24 Digital video replay sources

22 Hand-held cameras

10 Supershooter trailers in the TV compound

5 Robotic cameras (two on goal posts)

1 Cable-cam suspended above playing field

1 Hard camera for views of Tampa Bay

Bill Beckner Jr. can be reached at bbeckner@tribweb.com or 724-224-2696.