View Full Version : Polamalu: Experience won't help Steelers; past suggests otherwise

01-28-2011, 07:22 PM
Don Banks

Polamalu: Experience won't help Steelers; past suggests otherwise


One of the most popular and oft-repeated angles to this year's Super Bowl will be the experience factor, namely the idea that the Steelers, with their three trips to this game in the past six seasons, hold a sizable advantage in that regard over the Packers, who last played on this stage 13 years ago.

But Troy Polamalu isn't buying it. The all-world safety is one of 10 current Steelers who were on both the 2005 and 2008 Pittsburgh clubs that won rings, and all told 25 Steelers have played in a Super Bowl, with 14 of the team's 22 starters earning at least one NFL championship in Pittsburgh.

Polamalu doesn't happen to believe any of that will help the Steelers add to their jewelry collection. Pittsburgh's roster may be dotted with Super Bowl champions, while the Packers have none, (and only Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett have even played in the game), but those are just words printed on a page. Super Bowl experience is overrated, said the man with the NFL's most famous hair.


"Given the way the Giants beat the Patriots, or the Saints beat the Colts, or the way the Buffalo Bills lost four straight, you can't put too much into that,'' Polamalu told me late Sunday night in the Steelers' postgame locker room, showing a pretty good grasp of Super Bowl history. "I'll tell you what is a big advantage. It has nothing to do with playing in Super Bowls, but it has everything to do with playing in big games, whether it's rivalry games or whatever.

"I know every game we play with Baltimore is like a playoff atmosphere, and what I mean by playoff atmosphere is that every single play is like a chess match. You know the meaning of what even one play can be. One play can change everything. Tonight [meaning the Steelers' AFC title game win over the Jets] was a great example of that. Every play was a situational football play for us, just like it was last week against Baltimore [in the divisional round]. If you play in enough of those type of games, you learn how to play in big games.''

Polamalu makes a great point, but I can't help but notice that Pittsburgh's Super Bowl track record in particular doesn't exactly support his case. Two years ago, the Steelers beat the first-time Super Bowl qualifying Arizona Cardinals in Tampa. In Super Bowl XL, five years ago in Detroit, Seattle was making its first appearance in the league's showcase game, while the victorious Steelers hadn't been in 10 years and really only had Super Bowl experience on their Bill Cowher-led coaching staff. We'll call it a wash, since the Seahawks' Mike Holmgren had two Super Bowl trips on his head coaching r�sum�.

But in Super Bowl XXX, which followed the 1995 season, the Steelers were the Super Bowl novices of sorts, and they lost to the vaunted Dallas Cowboys, who already had two recent rings at that point. It was roughly the same story on the experience front when the 1979 Steelers earned their fourth ring by beating the Rams, a club making its first Super Bowl trip in franchise history.

Maybe Polamalu is right, and Pittsburgh's Super Bowl experience won't be a factor in the game's XLV version. But having been there and done that has likely helped some teams in the Super Bowl, while inexperience under the NFL's brightest spotlight has probably hurt others. It's just that no such angle is foolproof, so you can't count on experience making a difference every time. Maybe it'll show up in Pittsburgh's favor down in Texas, and maybe it won't.

Experience aside, every Super Bowl trip is unique, Polamalu said. "It's such a fun process, it really is. But getting there and winning it are two different stories.''

Pittsburgh's path this season has certainly been different. When the Steelers opened 2010 facing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension, few in Pittsburgh were thinking the Super Bowl was their inevitable destination. And when the Steelers were dismantled at home by the Patriots, 39-26 in Week 10, their ascension to the top of the AFC heap looked anything but assured.

"This journey has certainly been much different,'' Polamalu said. "But if we're able to win it, we'll see then. As Coach [Mike] Tomlin says, the AFC championship, it's just a piece of the hardware that you pick up along the way. Quite honestly, the Lamar Hunt [trophy] is meaningless when you're going to the Super Bowl. It's all about that trophy [the Lombardi].''

Polamalu, of course, meant no offense to Hunt, his well-respected NFL family, or the trophy that is named in honor of the longtime Kansas City Chiefs owner. He was just saying that in the NFL, the ring's the thing, and the only ring that matters is the one you get as Super Bowl champion. And in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers own a league-record six Super Bowl titles in seven appearances, they know that better than anywhere else.

To get that seventh ring, Polamalu and the Steelers have to get past a team with a hot quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and an aggressive 3-4 defense that looks and plays positively Pittsburgh-like. When the teams met late last season, at Heinz Field, Rodgers was superb in a thrilling 37-36 loss to the Steelers. But Roethlisberger was even better, throwing for a career-best 503 yards and the game-winning 19-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Mike Wallace as time expired. Polamalu missed that game with the knee injury that cost him much of 2009, but he was on hand and saw Rodgers pick apart the Pittsburgh defense for 383 yards and three touchdowns.

"To be able to put that many points up on our defense, you've got to really play well as a quarterback, because people aren't going to run the ball down our throats,'' Polamalu said. "So we know he's been very hot this postseason and we have a huge challenge ahead of us, especially given that they're a very balanced team.

"They've got a really awesome defense. The fact is you could switch half our players with half their players and we could both run the exact same defense. I guarantee you that we could swap safeties and run the exact same defense. You could definitely swap anyone on our defense and still play.''

With Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau being friends, former co-Pittsburgh coaches in the early '90s and proponents of the same 3-4 scheme, Polamalu is not exaggerating. The soft-spoken eighth-year veteran said while he wouldn't trade the Steelers' set of starting linebackers for anyone else's, facing Green Bay is a little like playing an opponent that's a mirror image of the Steelers.

"Whenever you play teams like that, it's about matching their defense's intensity, and it's about outplaying their defense,'' Polamalu said. "You just know with the nature of these type of games, it's never going to allow for a blowout. We know with the nature of our style of ball, it's always going to come down to the very end.''

That has indeed been the pattern in Pittsburgh. The Steelers' divisional-round comeback win over Baltimore came down to the bitter end. As did last week's AFC title-game conquest of the Jets, when Pittsburgh rolled the dice and risked having Roethlisberger throw the ball on third down to record the game-clinching first down. Polamalu loved the moxie that move showed.

"Conventional wisdom would be to run the ball, to burn the clock and leave it on your defense,'' Polamalu said. "But it depends on if you have a killer mentality or not in this game. It paid off for us, because we do have that mentality.

"I went up and I asked [Tomlin], 'What are we doing, what are we doing?' Then he said, 'We're passing the ball,' so I went to the sidelines and said, 'Guys, we're passing the ball. So get ready, in case it doesn't happen.' But getting that first down is as good as scoring a touchdown. That won the game.''

And with one more win next Sunday night, against a Packers team that hasn't played in a game this big for quite a while, the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh will have themselves another parade to plan and execute. After all these years, and all these Super Bowl trips, maybe that's where Pittsburgh's experience pays off most.

01-28-2011, 07:29 PM
I don't think it helps as much as people are making it out to be, but it might help a little. The first timers might be "in awe" a bit much, distracting them from the game, whereas the vets might view it as "just business as usual."

01-28-2011, 07:38 PM
I think the only advantage of previous super bowl experience must be in preparing for the game. It seems to me that once the game actually begins, the pro-atheletes will know what to do.

01-28-2011, 08:58 PM
It CAN have a huge effect on the game.....heck, Ben went from being dynamite during the 2005 playoffs to pedestrian in SB XL, admitedly, because his nerves got shook by being on the big stage.

Rodgers has never been there, neither has anybody else on the Packers' roster (except John Kuhn when he was on OUR practice squad). We need to go for the jugular right from the start of the game....

01-28-2011, 08:59 PM
Experience doesn't help. Didnt help the Pats a few years ago, didnt help the Rams when they played the Pats. Last blow out Super Bowl was Bucs vs Raiders. I think a Super Bowl is due a blow out. I hope its the steelers doing the blow out.....

01-28-2011, 09:19 PM
Former players that have been to multiple super bowls say it DOES help ALOT.The most interresting point they brought up was sleep.Not being able to sleep much the days leading up to the game due to all of the different scenarios playing through your head.That combined with the game day nerves causes fatigue.When you have been there and know what to expect,you rest a little easier,makes sense!!!

01-28-2011, 09:29 PM
Former players that have been to multiple super bowls say it DOES help ALOT

Not just players but coaches too.

We just had a flap here over the team photo and the IR guys. The photo was to be taken on Tuesday but the IR guys weren't coming in until Thursday.

Packers say it was just bad scheduling and rescheduled to get the IR guys in the photo. They seemed very surprised about the whole deal. Under the Super Bowl microscope stuff.

From little things like that to the crush of media, experience counts.

El Nino
01-28-2011, 09:59 PM
polamalu is saying that to keep the team grounded. he knows the pack is no joke and the last thing you want to do is underestimate your opponent, on the big stage

01-28-2011, 10:01 PM
True el nino,Troy is a smart player!!!

01-28-2011, 11:36 PM
Experience may not help, but inexperience can hurt

01-28-2011, 11:36 PM
I can see most that were never in a SB having butterflies...who wouldnt!

01-29-2011, 02:50 AM
I clicked on the poll at this article. I am really surprised how much everyone wants to give this game to GB. I like what Ed Bouchette said about this at Post Gazette +:

Are the Packers worthy of being a 2 1/2-point favorite? I'm anything but a betting guy, and I understand the line is not all that important. But where is this coming from? They are 13-6 with losses to the Lions and Browns, they play in the clearly weaker conference, and they barely squeaked out a victory yesterday against a team down to its third-string quarterback.

01-29-2011, 07:37 AM
of course experience makes a difference, just look at the difference Ben had in his first Superbowl vs. his second :flap:

I'm certianly not expecting Rodgers to have anywhere near as bad a game (it was Ben's 2nd year vs. Rodgers' 6th year), but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if nerves overwhelm him enough to negatively impact his play

01-29-2011, 10:57 AM
I clicked on the poll at this article. I am really surprised how much everyone wants to give this game to GB. I like what Ed Bouchette said about this at Post Gazette +:

Are the Packers worthy of being a 2 1/2-point favorite? I'm anything but a betting guy, and I understand the line is not all that important. But where is this coming from? They are 13-6 with losses to the Lions and Browns, they play in the clearly weaker conference, and they barely squeaked out a victory yesterday against a team down to its third-string quarterback.

i dont get this either i think pitt should be a 6 point favorite being a much stronger conference, how they barely beat the bear and the steelers with a better record and goin to their 3rd superbowl in 6 years

packs is in for a woopin
34-24 if they score sum late tds to make it close when the steelers do their shuttin down the offense and playin the prevent the win of defense...

not even a close game

plus the steelers have all this experience in superbowls not just a superbowl but 3 of them

01-29-2011, 11:11 AM
Just knowing what to expect where to go etc. Should if nothing else result in more free time and mind to concentrate on the game plan. As opposed to all the new, extra things that will be taking place during game week.