AFC North: ESPN Texas: Road to Super Bowl XLV

Displaced fan update

February, 9, 2011
The AFC North blog reconnected Wednesday with Pittsburgh native Dan Powell, who was one of 400 displaced fans who bought tickets but didn't have a seat for Super Bowl XLV. He shared his full story with us here.

Powell said he's been in contact with the NFL, and provided a brief update that the league gave him 30 days to decide between one of two options:
  1. One free ticket to next year's Super Bowl game plus a cash payment of $2,400 (three times the face value of the Super Bowl XLV game ticket held by the individual). The ticket to next year’s Super Bowl game is transferable.
  2. One free ticket to a future Super Bowl game of the fan's choice, including next year's if so desired, plus round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations provided by the NFL. This offer will be personalized in the ticket-holder's name and is not transferable.

Powell is in the process of making up his mind. Which option would you choose?
In talking with unhappy Pittsburgh Steelers fan Dan Powell Tuesday, he brought up a valid point that a free ticket to next year's Super Bowl isn't enough to make up for his bad experience over the weekend if his team wasn't in it.

Why would Powell, for example, spend his hard-earned money to see the Falcons play the Patriots in Super Bowl XVLI. (NOT a prediction, so don't hold me to that.)

So the NFL did the right thing this evening in announcing a second option for Powell and the approximate 400 fans who didn't have seats Sunday in Super Bowl XLV. Here is the NFL's release:
  1. One free ticket to next year’s Super Bowl game plus a cash payment of $2,400 (three times the face value of the Super Bowl XLV game ticket held by the individual). The ticket to next year’s Super Bowl game is transferable.
  2. One free ticket to a future Super Bowl game of the fan’s choice, including next year’s if so desired, plus round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations provided by the NFL. This offer will be personalized in the ticketholder’s name and is not transferable.

This gives fans like Powell a chance to potentially see the Steelers again in the Super Bowl. Free airfare and hotel lodging are also nice touches.

Of course, it will be up to Pittsburgh to hold up its end and make it to another Super Bowl in the near future. That's no easy task, but Pittsburgh has been to eight Super Bowls already.
Pittsburgh resident and Steelers fan Dan Powell felt fortunate to land tickets to Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6. It was a rare opportunity to see his team compete in person for a seventh championship on the NFL's biggest stage.

But Powell's Super Bowl experience was anything but super. In fact, it was awful. Powell was one of the reported 400 fans who purchased tickets but couldn't watch the game because of a seating issue at Cowboys Stadium.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Powell shared his Super Bowl experience with's AFC North blog.

"At no point during the whole thing did anyone come down and talk to us and told us what the story was," a disappointed Powell said. "Everything we know about it we read through the paper the next day or were looking through our phones online. ... No one had any info."

Super Bowl seats
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaA section of empty seats are seen at Cowboys Stadium before Super Bowl XLV. The temporary seats weren't completed and were deemed unsafe.
Powell said he entered Super Bowl week with extremely high expectations.

His father is a longtime Steelers season-ticket holder who won the lottery and was able to buy two Super Bowl tickets directly through the team at face value. Powell and his brother, Brad, jumped at the chance and bought two tickets for $800 each. The tickets were for Section 430A, Row 25.

Dan Powell and his brother arrived at Cowboys Stadium about four hours before kickoff in order to soak in the Super Bowl experience. They wanted to see the Steelers warm up, the pregame festivities and all the new stadium has to offer. But only delays and complications would follow.

"We waited in line for about an hour and a half to get through security, but we didn't really care about that because we were expecting to wait in line for that long," Powell said. "Then we get through all the security and gave our tickets to the people, and they said, 'Your tickets are no good.'"

From there it was a complete state of confusion, according to Powell. After talking to various people and getting little info, he was sent over to a ticket solution's booth near the Texas Rangers' baseball field.

"By this time it's about 4 p.m. [CT], so we sprint over there, and it's a hike," Powell said. "We get over there and we wait about 15 minutes or so before they come out and make an announcement. There's about a 1,000 people crowded around this little tent waiting and they kept saying, 'Somebody will have answers. Somebody will have answers.'

"Finally a guy comes out and says 'Your tickets have been reactivated. You all are good to go in.'"

So Powell and his brother sprint back to Cowboys Stadium to try to catch the little time there was left of the pregame atmosphere. It took another 45 minutes to get through security a second time, but the pair got in about 30 minutes before kickoff.

When Powell thought he'd made it through an already tough day, things got even worse when he got to his seats.

"We gave our tickets to the usher and she says, 'Sorry, everything above row 12 is closed. You can't go up there,'" Powell said, still flabbergasted days later.

The NFL deemed those seats unsafe due to an installation issue. Powell was among the unlucky few who owned a ticket in that area. Well after kickoff, some were relocated to "equal or better seats," according to the NFL. But Powell and his brother were among the reported 400 ticket holders forced to watch the game from a pair of sports bars in the basement of the stadium.

"It was two bars and they told us Steelers fans in one and Green Bay fans in the other," Powell said. "I don't know why they split us up. But at this point the game was about to start, and people down there as you could imagine were going crazy and screaming at anyone who would listen. Most of them were security guards and police who really couldn't do anything. I felt bad for them, actually, but I understood the people being angry."

Finally, a little before halftime representatives from the NFL entered the sports bar and passed out letters to ticketed fans. The letter stated a refund was due for three times the original value of the tickets and the fans would be granted entry to a hospitality area while at Cowboys Stadium, which is where the Powells already were.

It's been reported that special amenities were provided during Super Bowl XLV. But Powell says in his experience that wasn't the case.

"The NFL is acting like they treated us very, very well, like royalty or something," Powell said. "But they gave us no info. They said it was free food and drinks. There was absolutely no free food. I went to the bar and talked to the bartender in getting two free beers -- one for me and one for my brother. But that was at the bartender's discretion. So some people got them."

In total, Powell estimates he and his brother spent about $4,000 each on Super Bowl tickets, hotel, airfare, ground transportation, parking, food and entertainment. He said he would have much rather sat in a sports bar Sunday in Pittsburgh and had the same experience while saving thousands of dollars.

Reportedly the NFL plans to give Powell and others free tickets to Super Bowl XLVI next year in Indianapolis to make up for the huge error. But with no way of knowing the participating teams, Powell says it probably won't be the same.

"There's no guarantee the Steelers will be in another Super Bowl ever. But I wish they could give us a Super Bowl ticket next year and be guaranteed a ticket the next time the Steelers go," Powell said. "I wouldn't be real interested in seeing any other teams. I went to this Super Bowl strictly because the Steelers were in it."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As the AFC North blog wraps up its week-long trip in the Lone Star State, we want to leave one last question Monday for our community.

Which Super Bowl XLV turnover hurt the Pittsburgh Steelers most: Ben Roethlisberger's pick-six in the first half or Rashard Mendenhall's fourth-quarter fumble? Take your pick.

Both plays were huge and led to Green Bay Packers touchdowns in the six-point victory.

Roethlisberger was pressured in the first quarter and threw a lame duck right into the hands of Packers safety Nick Collins, who returned it 37 yards for a score, giving the Packers a 14-0 lead. The Steelers were never able to overcome that early deficit. So was Roethlisberger's interception more costly?

Or was the timing of Mendenhall's fumble more important? The Steelers were only down 21-17 and driving when Packers linebacker Clay Matthews popped the ball out of Mendenhall's hands. Green Bay scored a touchdown eight plays later to take a 28-17 lead in the fourth quarter and never looked back.

So take your pick between these two costly turnovers by Pittsburgh, and share your comments below. You can also send your thoughts to our division inbox and AFC North Twitter page, and we will run the best responses throughout the week.

Steelers feeling the pain

February, 7, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- I've covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for three seasons now while doing the AFC North blog, and this was by far the most downtrodden I've ever seen this team.

There were a lot of blank stares from a group of veterans unfamiliar with losing Super Bowls. Players who were usually boisterous and upbeat were extremely sullen and shocked. It was an inner pain that could only come from being within six points and one drive from the ultimate goal of winning a championship.

Here is some emotional reaction from the Steelers after their 31-25 Super Bowl XLV loss to the Green Bay Packers:

Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison

"I don't feel anything but pain. … I know I lost an AFC Championship game one time and the pain was there for about four to six weeks. I don't know how long this is going to last but I hope it is over with fast."

Steelers safety Ryan Clark

"To win the Super Bowl, it's an amazing feeling. It's a feeling of satisfaction. It's a feeling of fulfillment in your job. To lose it, to actually be here and lose it, I don't know. There's nothing worse athletically. There's other things in life that could happen, but nothing worse athletically."

Steelers receiver Mike Wallace

"The lowest I've ever been down after a football game. I know you win some, you lose some, but this is one you can't really lose."

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

"You know me, I hate to lose. Like I said, especially when you feel like you’re letting down guys that really stepped up today in a big way. So it's really hard."
Rashard MendenhallMatthew Emmons/US PresswireRashard Mendenhall's fumble killed Pittsburgh's drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The team with the most championship experience committed three ugly turnovers in Super Bowl XLV.

A veteran group that came to Texas with plenty of hardware looked shell-shocked early in the first half, falling behind by 18 points.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who planned to take advantage of their Super Bowl experience, in many ways played like first-timers in Sunday's 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers. With a minus-three turnover margin, Pittsburgh fell to 6-2 in Super Bowls. And for the current core of Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton and James Farrior, this was their first Super Bowl loss in three tries.

Pittsburgh (14-5) hadn't been a sloppy team all season but suddenly became turnover-prone and mistake-laden on the NFL's biggest stage. Pittsburgh's three turnovers led directly to 21 Green Bay points, which was the difference and led to a long flight home and an even longer offseason.

"I'd just rather not be here if I'm not going to take home the trophy," said a sullen Steelers safety Ryan Clark. "Just talking to Troy, it's like 'What do we do now? Where do you go from here?' Nothing separates us from the other 30 teams that weren't here. We're just like them."

Pittsburgh's six-point loss was littered with errors often seen from lesser AFC North teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. The Steelers were careless with the football (two interceptions, one fumble), were flat early and committed six penalties which negated several good plays.

There were hints during the playoff run that the Steelers could have this type of sloppy Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh hadn't put together four solid quarters of football all postseason and it finally caught up to them against the red-hot Packers. The Steelers fell behind big to the Baltimore Ravens in the first half of the divisional round and nearly blew a sizable lead to the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game.

The Steelers' poor second half against New York was extended into the Super Bowl, as Green Bay jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the second quarter and never trailed. Had the Steelers won, they would have overcome the largest deficit in Super Bowl history.

The Steelers nearly pulled it off but couldn't overcome their turnovers. Roethlisberger's two picks in the first half led to a pair of touchdowns, and Rashard Mendenhall's huge fumble in the fourth quarter allowed Green Bay to score eight plays later to take a 28-17 lead, essentially sealing Pittsburgh's fate.

Mendenhall has had issues with fumbling throughout his career but improved this season. He only lost two fumbles in 324 regular-season carries but picked an awful time to put one on the ground in his first Super Bowl.

"It just happened and it should not have happened," said Mendenhall, who didn't see Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews on the hit. "When you turn the ball over like we did, you put yourself in a bad position to win the game."

Roethlisberger fell to 10-3 in the playoffs and 2-1 in Super Bowls. He had a chance to win his third ring at age 28 but was inconsistent, throwing for 263 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Roethlisberger's passer rating was 77.4, while Green Bay counterpart Aaron Rodgers (304 yards, three touchdowns) held a 111.5 passer rating.

"If I had played a little bit better, I feel like we would have had a better chance to win the game," Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger wasn't alone as missed opportunities were the story of the game for the Steelers. Pittsburgh's defense blew some coverages and allowed several big passing plays. The coaching staff made a curious decision to try a 52-yard field goal which wasn't close and blew two costly timeouts in the second half. And just about everyone on the team was at fault for Pittsburgh's really slow start.

But anything can happen in a one-game scenario, and Green Bay was the sharper, more efficient team.

Once the immediate disappointment of a Super Bowl loss blows over, Pittsburgh will eventually look back at this season as a major success. Expectations were extremely low for the Steelers. Roethlisberger missed the first four games because of a suspension and many -- including the AFC North blog -- picked Pittsburgh to finish third in the division.

Instead, this talented and resilient group banded together and surprised everyone by winning the AFC North and making it all the way to the title match. But sloppiness in the final game led to runner-up status and Pittsburgh will think about what could have been.

"It was a good year, but this is not the way you want to finish it," Mendenhall said. "At the same time, it is a blessing to have this opportunity and we didn't take advantage of it. You want to grow from every experience and just move on from here."

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here are some early thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl XLV 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

What it means: The Steelers failed to win their seventh Super Bowl title and fell to 6-2 all time in the big game. This is also the first Super Bowl loss in three tries for Pittsburgh's core group of veterans such as Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, James Farrior, Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton. Roethlisberger, who had a chance to win another Super Bowl on the final drive, fell to 10-3 in the playoffs.

What I liked: Pittsburgh showed its experience by not panicking after falling behind 21-3 in the second quarter. The Steelers scored a touchdown at the end of the half and early in the third quarter to get within 21-17 in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh's defense held Green Bay's offense to just one first down in the third quarter. But the Packers' high-powered offense eventually warmed up again and made enough plays to extend their lead in the fourth quarter.

What I didn't like: The Steelers haven't played a complete game throughout the playoffs and it caught up to them in the Super Bowl. Green Bay jumped out to a 21-10 lead at halftime thanks to Pittsburgh's penalties and mistakes. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions that led to 14 Packers points and several penalties added to Pittsburgh's slow start. The Steelers tried to make a run in the second half. But it's extremely difficult to overcome large deficits in the Super Bowl against great teams.

What's next: That's it for the 2010 season. Pittsburgh played in its second Super Bowl in three years but came up short in this one. We will have more Super Bowl coverage coming up and also will put the bow on another season in the AFC North blog in the coming week.

Steelers cut deficit, Sanders out

February, 6, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who suffered a foot injury in the first half of Super Bowl XLV.

Sanders has made big plays for Pittsburgh this year as the No. 3 receiver. Antwaan Randle El is playing in his place in the second half.

The Steelers have come out strong in the second half and scored an early touchdown by Rashard Mendenhall to cut the deficit to 21-17.

Steelers-Packers halftime notes

February, 6, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Green Bay Packers lead the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10 at intermission of Super Bowl XLV.

Here are some notes at halftime:
  • Pittsburgh's passing game, for the most part, looks out of sync. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got hot late but for most of the first half he missed throws he usually makes. He underthrew a pass that was intercepted by Packers safety Nick Collins and returned for a touchdown in the first quarter. Green Bay's Jarrett Bush also jumped a route for a second interception. Roethlisberger threw for 143 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the first half
  • The Packers have done a good job of attacking Pittsburgh's second and third cornerbacks. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is testing Pittsburgh's Bryant McFadden and William Gay and is finding success. Green Bay's first touchdown pass was a 29-yard strike to Jordy Nelson over Gay.
  • Pittsburgh struggled with injuries and penalties in the first half. Offensive tackle Flozell Adams (shoulder) and McFadden both suffered injuries but returned. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders also was hurt in the second quarter. The Steelers also committed four penalties that negated several good plays.
  • This might be the biggest test all season for Pittsburgh. This is the second biggest deficit for the Steelers in the postseason. The Baltimore Ravens led 21-7 at intermission in the divisional round.

Steelers out to awful start

February, 6, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are off to an awful start in Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers.

First, the Steelers' defense allowed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Green Bay's Jordy Nelson. Then, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception that was returned by Nick Collins for a touchdown. Roethlisberger was pressured and hit on the play. Starting right tackle Flozell Adams injured his left shoulder during the interception return and didn't return for the next series. Green Bay leads 14-0 after the first quarter.

That's the bad news. The good news is it's early.

Countdown Live: Super Bowl XLV

February, 6, 2011
Join our NFL experts as they break down the biggest game of the season: Super Bowl XLV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

Steelers inactives

February, 6, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here are the Pittsburgh Steelers you won't see Sunday in Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers:
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the NFL's most-experienced teams. That is a major reason they are participating in Super Bowl XLV Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

But here is a breakdown of several key Steelers who will see their first action on the NFL's biggest stage:

WRs Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown

Analysis: Known in Pittsburgh as the "Young Money Crew," Wallace, Sanders and Brown have stepped up huge for the Steelers. Wallace is an elite deep threat and has carried the Steelers' passing game this year. Sanders has come on as a legit No. 3 receiver, while Brown has made his mark in the playoffs with back-to-back big catches to end games. This trio needs to step up for Pittsburgh to win its seventh championship.

RBs Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman

Analysis: Both running backs are playing in their first Super Bowl but under different circumstances. Mendenhall was on the roster in 2008 but broke his shoulder as a rookie early and missed the playoff run. Now Mendenhall is playing well in his first postseason. Redman has earned his way on the active roster this season after impressing the coaching staff while on the practice squad.

C Doug Legursky

Analysis: It was questionable if Legursky would make the team out of training camp. Now the backup center is starting in the biggest game of the season. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC title game against the New York Jets. Legursky filled in admirably for more than three quarters and also had two full weeks to prepare.

DE Ziggy Hood

Analysis: Hood is another injury replacement. He filled in for Aaron Smith (triceps) most of this season and played well. Pittsburgh still led the NFL in run defense and the Steelers finished second in total defense, despite Smith's injury. Hood also is playing his best football in the playoffs.

OT Flozell Adams

Analysis: Although one of Pittsburgh's oldest players, Adams, 35, has zero Super Bowl experience as a longtime member of the Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers have taken the approach all week to "win one for Flozell." Not only does Adams have a chance to win his first ring, but he can do it in the same city he played most of his career.

Checking in from Cowboys Stadium

February, 6, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The AFC North blog has checked into humongous Cowboys Stadium in preparation for Super Bowl XLV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.

There were tons of fans from both teams outside. Here are some pictures of my trip into the stadium you can check out here, here and here.

It should be a fun day. We're just getting warmed up.