Super weekend begins

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By Justin Cohen

Writer

As the nation prepares to shine its spotlight on Dallas for Super Bowl XLV, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are hard at work, each seeking to add another title to its respective franchise.

In a season of parity throughout the league, it seems fitting that the Packers are the first No. 6 seed from the NFC ever to make it to the Super Bowl. Conversely, Pittsburgh is looking to put some distance from its competitors by bringing home a record seventh Lombardi Trophy.

Both teams have been seeing spectacular play from their defenses, but while Pittsburgh brings many familiar faces, such as Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, Green Bay has been successful with a core of young defensive stars, many of whom are not yet 30 years old. The road to Dallas has not been easy for either team.

Pittsburgh started the season with franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the bench due to off-the-field issues from last summer. Through the first four games, the Steelers had to use two different back-up quarterbacks. They managed to stay at the top of the league with a 3-1 record after four games and did not look back as they went on to a 12-4 record, earning another AFC North championship and the No. 2 seed in the conference.

After a first-round bye, the Steelers went on to a comeback win against division rival Baltimore by scoring 24 points in the second half and racking up three takeaways. The next week the New York Jets, fresh off an upset win in Foxboro against the Patriots, were kept in check by Pittsburgh’s 24 first-half points.

Representing the NFC, the Green Bay Packers faced a much more difficult journey than their AFC opposition. In their very first game this year, starting running back Ryan Grant was lost for the season due to an ankle injury. Several weeks later, up-and-coming tight-end Jermichael Finley suffered a knee injury and was lost for the season as well.

The Packers finished the season with 16 players on injured reserve and many others, including star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, missing some playing time over the course of the season.

Even with all of the injuries, their will and determination helped propel them to a wildcard berth in the last week of the season. In the team’s three playoff games, Rodgers has a total of six touchdowns and two interceptions. Running back James Starks has come out of nowhere to give the Packers a much-needed rushing attack, and the Packers defense has five picks, two of them returned for touchdowns.

This year’s Super Bowl has everything a football fan could ask for in a critical game: talented players with something to prove and two passionate fan bases riding on one game with the highest stakes. Even if the game is a defensive struggle and ends in a 3-0 finish, it should still be a great game as two of the NFL’s most storied franchises clash for the honor and right to be called world champions.

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