Why Super Bowl XLV is one for the ages
Talk to anybody about Sunday's Super Bowl XLV between the Packers and Steelers and you'll no doubt hear one thing: "What a great matchup of two storied franchises. These are two historic teams!"
Any Super Bowl has the potential to be a historic game, regardless of who's playing. What makes this game stand out? Well, before we even get to kickoff, we have two teams steeped in NFL history. More than 165 combined years of football history, to be exact. Here's a closer look at why Sunday's matchup is truly historic.
Longevity and success
The Packers and Steelers are two of the signature and preeminent teams in NFL history. The Steelers are the fifth-oldest franchise in the NFL and the oldest franchise in the AFC. At the time the Steelers were established, in 1933, only four other teams existed: the Chicago (now Arizona) Cardinals, the Chicago Bears, the New York Giants and...the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were founded in 1919, and though Green Bay didn't join the new pro football league (established in 1920) until 1921, the team is synonymous with the formation of the league.
Let's talk championships and Super Bowl titles. This is where we really see why these two teams are in a class by themselves. The Packers and Steelers are two of only eight teams in history to have won at least three Super Bowls. The teams are a combined 9-2 in the Super Bowl. These are remarkable statistics in a league defined by parity.
Packers: Most championships in NFL history
The Packers have won 12 championships -- more than any other team in NFL history -- including a remarkable six championships between 1929 and 1944 and three Super Bowl titles. Remember, the Super Bowl didn't start until the 1966 season, and the Packers won the first two Super Bowls in January 1967 and January 1968 under legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Their next (and most recent) Super Bowl title came following the 1996 season. Green Bay is the only NFL team to win three straight titles, which the franchise did twice: in 1929,'30 and '31 and following the 1965,'66 and '67 seasons. The Packers are 3-1 in the Super Bowl, with their only loss coming in Super Bowl XXXII to the Denver Broncos.
Steelers: Most Super Bowl titles in NFL history
The Steelers didn't win their first championship until Super Bowl IX, but they have won six Super Bowls -- more than any other team in history. During the 1970s, the "Steel Curtain" dominated, becoming the first team to win four Super Bowls (in a six-year span) and the only team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice (IX and X; XIII and XIV). This was the team that I knew growing up, with quarterback Terry Bradshaw, running back Franco Harris and linebacker "Mean" Joe Greene. Recently, the Steelers and seventh-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have added to the team's legacy of success, winning two more Super Bowls after the 2005 and 2008 seasons. The team is a remarkable 6-1 in the Super Bowl.
Last season: A game to remember
For two teams with such long and impressive legacies in the league, the Steelers and Packers have met only twice in the last 12 regular seasons, another reason why this Super Bowl matchup is so intriguing. The teams last played in Week 15 of the 2009 season in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 37-36, when Roethlisberger threw a 19-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Wallace on the final play of the game. Roethlisberger set a Steelers franchise record with 503 passing yards (and three touchdowns) in that game, the 10th-highest total in NFL history. For his part, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns in that game. It's the only game -- regular season or playoffs -- in the Super Bowl era in which opposing quarterbacks threw for at least 375 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
That brings us to Sunday's game. As if all that history wasn't enough, we also have the league's top two scoring defenses facing off. It's just the fourth time this has happened and the first time since Super Bowl XVII (after the 1982 strike-shortened season). The Packers allowed 15 points per game during the regular season, their fewest since 1996 (when they last won the Super Bowl). The only team better this season was the Steelers, who allowed 14.5 points per game and have now led the NFL in scoring defense three times in the past seven seasons.
It's a matchup of the top two defenses. It's a matchup of two of the top quarterbacks in the league and their high-powered offenses. The teams are from smaller, working-class cities with blue-collar attitudes. It's over 160 years of football history on one field. It's the first Super Bowl ever without cheerleaders. Get ready for one for the ages.