ARLINGTON, Texas -- The great thing about sports -- any competition, really -- is that you almost always get what you earn.
The Steelers didn't deserve to win Super Bowl XLV.
You commit three turnovers and don't get any. Two of your most dependable offensive stars fail you in the clutch. Your No. 1-rated defense in points allowed can't stop the other team's quarterback from throwing three touchdown passes.
You deserve to lose.
So it is that the Green Bay Packers are world champions for the 2010 NFL season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- an easy choice as Super Bowl MVP -- did what a lot of us thought to be impossible in leading the Packers to a 31-25 win at Cowboys Stadium. He thoroughly outplayed the great Ben Roethlisberger, who must wait another year to get his precious third Super Bowl ring.
"I don't blame anyone but myself," a subdued Roethlisberger said after the confetti finally stopped falling on the Packers. "There were a lot of throws I'd like to have back. I turned the ball over. You can't do that ...
"I feel like I let down the city of Pittsburgh, the fans, my coaches, my teammates ... it's not a good feeling."
Certainly, the Steelers' final drive added to Roethlisberger's dismay. He had a chance to make the two first-half interceptions he threw -- one was returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Packers safety Nick Collins -- a mere footnote to history, as well as a rare killer fumble by running back Rashard Mendenhall at the Packers 33 on the first play of the fourth quarter when the Steelers were threatening to take the lead. I fully expected him to win the game when the Steelers took over at their 13 with 1:59 left.
"You feel pretty good," Roethlisberger said of the situation. Asked what he told his teammates in the huddle, he said, " 'I believe in you guys. We can do this.' I think we all felt like we could."
But there would be no Elwayesque drive on this night, no repeat of the 78-yard march to greatness that Roethlisberger led in the final 2 1/2 minutes to beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. His final three passes from the Steelers 33 fell incomplete, prompting this emotional proclamation from Packers coach Mike McCarthy moments later: "Coach Lombardi's trophy is finally coming home to Green Bay."
That would be the Vince Lombardi Trophy, which goes to the Super Bowl champs.
"They were the better team tonight," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said.
In every sense.
Quarterback play? Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and those three touchdowns. His best and most important throw went for 31 yards to wide receiver Greg Jennings on third-and-10 from the Packers 25 with six minutes left when the Steelers trailed by just three points, 28-25.
"It seemed like it brushed off the tip of [cornerback] Ike Taylor's glove, but it just got over the top enough where I could make a play on it," Jennings said.
Said Packers wide receiver Donald Driver on Rodgers: "He's the best quarterback in the game today. He's on top of the world."
Added Steelers coach Mike Tomlin of Rodgers: "He didn't fold under the pressure. I tip my hat to him for that. That ball to Jennings down the middle of the field under those circumstances, that's big time."
How about the Packers' defensive dominance?
Their defense gave up 49 more yards than the Steelers defense -- 387 to 338 yards -- but it did more than just make the big stand at the end without, by the way, top cornerback Charles Woodson (collarbone) and nickel back Sam Shields (shoulder). It produced the six points on Collins' interception return and might just have won the game by forcing the Mendenhall fumble on a hit by linebacker Clay Matthews when the Steelers trailed by just four points, 21-17. In all, its three turnovers led to 21 points.
The Steelers defense gave its offense zero points.
"We were unable to get any turnovers," safety Troy Polamalu said. "That was the difference. They made plays on defense and we didn't."
As a group, the Packers made plays, a few more, anyway, than the Steelers.
Enough to be world champions.
"Green Bay was hot coming in," Ward said. "We knew we had to play perfect ball to have an opportunity to beat them. We came up short."
That's another way of saying the same thing, isn't it?
The Steelers got what they deserved.
Ron Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.