DALLAS – Five seasons ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl as a sixth seed when they beat the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field in Detroit.
In order to even qualify for the Super Bowl, they had to win three consecutive road games against the no. 1, 2 and 3 seeds while beating the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild card round, the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship.
The cast of characters has changed in Pittsburgh since that time, including the switch from Bill Cowher to Mike Tomlin as head coach, although several of the same players remain.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie and won his first Super Bowl title, the Pittsburgh linebacking corps remains largely intact, and tight end Heath Miller was just beginning to make his mark.
Several others also stuck around, with Super Bowl rings as proof, and now the Green Bay Packers are trying to replicate that success.
The Packers became the first team in the history of the NFC to qualify for the Super Bowl as a sixth seed when they defeated the no. 3 seeded Philadelphia Eagles in the wild card round, the no. 1 seeded Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round and the no. 1 seeded Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game, all on the road.
Rookie tight end Andrew Quarless said the team used their six-seed status as motivation.
“Definitely,” said Quarless, “I felt like just offensively and defensively, we were out there really playing with swagger. We all feel very confident in our abilities, from the receiving corps. We know that we are able to make plays.
“We play with that swagger. We have (Aaron Rodgers) putting on that belt and playing with swagger. It’s fun and we really feed off each other.”
Head coach Mike McCarthy said that the proof of the Packers and the Steelers becoming sixth seeds to qualify for the Super Bowl in the past decade is substantiation of parity in the NFL.
“I think parity has been very evident in the National Football League for quite some time,” said McCarthy. “If I’m correct, I think this is the tenth different NFC team in the Super Bowl in the last ten years, so it’s been very evident that this is the way we’re structured and it’s no different this year.”
General manager Ted Thompson agreed to an extent, although he said the do-or-die, sudden-death nature had a lot to do with it as well.
“The playoffs are a different thing,” said Thompson. “It’s a one-and-done situation. As hard as it is, once you get into it, like us being a wild card team, you’re playing every week, and it actually goes by faster than you think it’s going to.
“You think it’s going to be some sort of trudge through the desert or something, but it goes fast. It’s one-and-done, one-and-done, one-and-done, and all of a sudden you’re here.”
The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were 11-5 during the regular season, but this year’s version of the Packers could one-up them with a 10-6 mark.
In order to do that, they still have to win the game, however.