ARLINGTON, Texas - The Steelers simply don't lose Super Bowls, right?
With all of the success the Steelers have enjoyed in the NFL's biggest game - winning six of their first seven opportunities - finishing second seemed like it would be a failure of a season in Pittsburgh.
Sunday night was definitely a failure of a game for the Black and Gold.
The Associated Press
Rashard Mendenhall, who had a key fumble in the fourth quarter, sits dejectedly on the bench after the game.
But after the Green Bay Packers defeated the Steelers, 31-25, in Super Bowl XLV, the final story of the 2010 Steelers shouldn't be written exclusively about the crushing loss at Cowboys Stadium.
"You know, [the Steelers players] worked hard,'' Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a somber Pittsburgh locker room. "We appreciated the effort they put in all year. They got us close to winning a seventh championship, and that's pretty impressive.''
Green Bay was a worthy opponent, having gotten on a roll at the end of the season and marched through the NFC playoffs as the sixth seed.
The Packers brought a ton of their cheesehead fans with them to the Dallas area to cheer on their great franchise, which is among the top respected ones in the NFL with the Steelers.
The Packers, with very little Super Bowl experience, were not intimidated by the big stage and took it to the Steelers in the first half. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was spectacular, completing 11-of-16 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns en route to a Super Bowl MVP.
He finished with 304 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was below average, throwing two interceptions that led to 14 Packers points. Green Bay built a 21-3 lead and later turned another Steelers turnover into seven more points.
On this night, the Packers were clearly the better team.
"We lost to a good team and a great franchise,'' Rooney II said. "My hat's off to those guys for what they accomplished this year. We just fell a little bit short.''
It may be difficult for Steelers fans today, but one has to examine the entire journey the Steelers traveled to reach the NFL's biggest game for the third time in six seasons.
The past Steelers champions this decade endured some trying times. Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis finally won a Super Bowl with a second-year quarterback after making the playoffs as a sixth seed in 2005, and the 2008 Steelers danced through the league's toughest schedule and rallied in the final minutes in Super Bowl XLIII with a young, second-year coach.
However, the 2010 Steelers faced more adversity than one could imagine, beginning with Roethlisberger being suspended for the first four games of the season.
They also traded away their top receiver, Santonio Holmes, in the offseason and watched as their top AFC North Division rival, the Baltimore Ravens, stacked their team with free-agent signings.
The Steelers then lost both of their starting tackles - Willie Colon and Max Starks - on the offensive line due to injury and were without defensive end Aaron Smith, one of their most respected team leaders, for most of the season.
The Steelers changed kickers and punters during the season, and Troy Polamalu played through an Achilles injury as best as he could late in the year.
They rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit in the playoffs, and they also played in the Super Bowl without their Pro Bowl rookie center, Maurkice Pouncey, who sustained an ankle sprain.
Then they nearly pulled off an 18-point comeback in the Super Bowl.
"We're not into moral victories,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We came here to win the football game, of course, and we didn't do that. Green Bay did, and we congratulate them.''
The stairway to No. 7 definitely contained its share of pitfalls. The fact that the Steelers were able to negotiate their way through all of the roadblocks until the final one makes this season a success.
Even if that's hard to see right now.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.