ARLINGTON (AP) – 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.
Both teams started strong and held on for dear life to win their conference titles. Pittsburgh was up 24-0 but needed a goal-line stand to finally silence the Jets. The Packers jumped ahead by two touchdowns on the Bears, who nearly pulled it out with third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie leading the comeback. An interception in the final minute sent Green Bay packing for Dallas.
“We made a play to win the game and that’s all that matters,” Matthews said. “Keep playing defense the way we know how, and it’s going to be tough for teams to beat us.”
Roethlisberger is going for his third title in six years, after sitting out the first four games as punishment for his behavior in a small Georgia college town over the offseason. He was accused of sexually assaulting a young woman, though no charges were filed. His reputation took a beating, however.
Having apologized and insisted that he’s a changed man, Big Ben hopes to move him into rarified territory with a third Super Bowl ring. The only quarterbacks who have won more are Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana, each with four.
“This one was for Steelers fans,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m really proud of the way you came out and supported us.”
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.
Green Bay hasn’t had much luck in Dallas, either, losing nine straight games since its last win there in 1989. But all of those defeats came against the hometown Cowboys in old Texas Stadium.
This is a different time, a different place, a different team. The stakes have never been higher.
So break out those Cheeseheads and Terrible Towels.
Just be sure to leave the scissors at home.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)