Steelers vs. Pack: A hair-raisin' game in Big D

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (34) runs against the New York Jets during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

January 24, 2011 5:31:08 AM PST
Get ready for a hair-raisin' Super Bowl in Big D.

No barbers necessary, that's for sure, when the Steelers face the Packers.

Troy Polamalu and the Steel Curtain led Pittsburgh into the big game for the third time in six years, holding off Rex Ryan and those big-talkin' Jets 24-19 in the AFC championship game Sunday.

The black-and-gold already have won six Super Bowl rings, more than any franchise, but they'll be going against a team that can hold its own in the history department.

Green Bay was the Monster of the Midway in the NFC, winning its third straight road playoff game 21-14 over the rival Chicago Bears. The Packers can also hold their own in the hair department, too, with the grungy locks of Clay Matthews matched against Polamalu's thick mass of curls.

A pair of over-the-top 'dos for America's most outsized sporting event, a de facto national holiday that brings all of America together in front of their high-def, big-screen TVs for a blitz of salsa and wings, unabashed capitalism and glitzy halftime shows -- and, for most of the past decade, some dang good football.

And let's not forget our other national pastime: gambling.

The Packers opened as 2 1/2-point favorites for the game Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium, the spaceship of a stadium that Jerry Jones built to showcase a game as big as all of Texas.

That spread sounds about right, based on the classic finishes that have become the norm in a game that used to be anything but Super on the field.

Beginning in 2000, when the Rams stopped the Titans a yard short of the tying score as time ran out, six Super Bowls have been decided by a touchdown or less, many of them going right down to the final seconds.

The storylines abound in this one, from Ben Roethlisberger turning an offseason of discontent into a year of triumph to Aaron Rodgers leading the sixth-seeded Packers to one big win after another, much like the guy whose shadow he's left in the dust, Brett Favre.

Roethlisberger is going for his third title in six years. Green Bay is known as Titletown USA, but the Packers haven't won it all since 1997.

The people who wear cartoon-looking blocks of cheese on their heads figure that's long enough, considering the boys of the frozen tundra have won more titles than any other franchise when taking into account what happened before there was a game with Super in the title.

The Packers count a dozen NFL titles in all, including the first two Super Bowls in 1967 and '68 with Vince Lombardi stalking the sideline. That '97 title, a 14-point romp past the New England Patriots, is the only time Green Bay has hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy since then, though.