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Old 01-24-2009, 09:06 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' Super Bowl experience may pay off big

Steelers' Super Bowl experience may pay off big

If Super Bowl experience means anything, the Arizona Cardinals are in trouble.
Only two of their starters have played in a previous Super Bowl, but none with the Cardinals.

By comparison, the Steelers return 11 starters plus nine other players who played in their 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

"It's always an advantage," Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend said. "The Super Bowl is an overwhelming game. It's the biggest game you can ever play in. And to have played in a past Super Bowl and to feel what it's like, I think it helps you relax and allow you to just play football."

"I hope it's an advantage," linebacker Larry Foote added. "Half our team has been there and done that."

The only two Arizona starters who've been through the Super Bowl routine before are quarterback Kurt Warner and cornerback Rod Hood.

Warner, an 11th-year pro, played in two Super Bowls with St. Louis. He was the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XXXIV when the Rams edged Tennessee 23-16. Two years later, he and the Rams lost to New England, 20-17.

Hood has experience as a backup in Super Bowl XXXIX when Philadelphia lost to the Patriots.

"You could take scenarios where (previous Super Bowl experience) is a factor," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "The reality is that our team is very different from last year's team. This team is definitely very different than the team that won the Super Bowl a few years ago.

"Individually, the experiences can be helpful to people. But collectively, this team's body of work stands alone and speaks for itself, as does Arizona's. What has happened in the past will really be kind of irrelevant to determine the outcome of the game. It is going to be about how the players execute in Raymond James Stadium on February 1."

Still, coaches who lead their teams to the Super Bowl always talk about trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy under conditions that are anything but normal.

There's so much media attention at the Super Bowl, especially if there's anything kind of controversial.

Teams are bussed to practice each day.

Teams live out of a hotel for a week.

Players want to make sure their families and friends arrive at a Super Bowl site without having to worry about travel arrangements and hotel accommodations. They also have to make sure all their loved ones have tickets for the game.

And once the game starts, the pressure of playing in the Super Bowl can be intense. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says he's never been as nervous before a game as he was three years for Super Bowl XL in Detroit.

"It is overwhelming," Roethlisberger said. "But I don't think (past Super Bowl experience) matters. Professionals come to play. Kurt Warner has been there before. He drives that ship and he will make it happen."

Still, in Roethlisberger's first Super Bowl appearance, he didn't play well. He threw two interceptions and posted a 22.6 passer rating, the second-worst of his career.

"That was my second year (as a pro) and everything was still kind of a big whirlwind," he said. "Hopefully, being five years in and more of a veteran will help."

"It is crazy at the Super Bowl. It definitely can be a distraction," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "But a lot of guys in this locker room have been there and done it. We know what to expect. We're relying on that leadership to propel us to a win."

Mike Bires is the Steelers beat writer for Calkins Newspapers' Beaver County Times.
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