Steelers, Packers meet for first time since Super Bowl XLV


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NFL coaches and players are not ones to reminisce all that much until they retire. But the Green Bay Packers could not help but be reminded of their most recent world championship this week and last because of a schedule quirk that forced them to take a trip down memory lane.

Last week, the Packers made their first trip back to the Dallas Cowboys' stadium (now called AT&T Stadium) since beating the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, and they beat the Cowboys, 37-36. On Sunday, the Packers will play host to the Steelers in the first meeting between the Super Bowl XLV combatants since Green Bay's 31-25 victory Feb. 6, 2011.

"It's kind of unique to play Dallas in Dallas in the building that you won the Super Bowl in, and then play the Steelers the following week," said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, a native of Greenfield. "It was different driving into Cowboys Stadium because it was the first time we'd been back there since winning the Super Bowl game. It felt good to drive back into the stadium, no doubt about it."

The Steelers weren't so cheery about looking back on Super Bowl XLV this week. It was only their second Super Bowl loss in eight trips and it came when they could have claimed a mini-dynasty had they won. The Steelers were going for their third Super Bowl title in a six-season span after winning Super Bowl XL and XLIII.

"I think you have an appreciation for getting there the longer you play," said tight end Heath Miller, a rookie in 2005 when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. "When you're that close and you come up short, it's something that you'll probably never forget."

For quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the loss always will be hard to swallow. His goal is to finish his career with more Super Bowl victories than any other quarterback. Four is the record held by Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. After leading the team to wins in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII, Super Bowl XLV is the one that got away.

The Steelers fought back from a 21-3 deficit to make it 21-17 entering the fourth quarter. They had the ball at the Green Bay 33 when Rashard Mendenhall fumbled. Green Bay scored to make it 28-17. The Steelers had a chance to win the game on their final possession, but they turned it over on downs.

"How do you not [think about it]?" Roethlisberger said. "The Green Bay media asked the same thing. 'What do you remember?' I said, 'Losing.' That's all that matters. That's all you remember from a game like that."

There are 19 remaining Steelers who were on the 2010 Super Bowl XLV roster. Roethlisberger, Miller, Matt Spaeth and Ramon Foster started on offense in Super Bowl XLV. Seven current Steelers started on defense that game: Brett Keisel, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Ike Taylor, William Gay, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark.

What the defensive players remember most is how well Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played. He was named MVP after throwing for 304 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.

"He was on fire," Taylor said.

The Steelers will not have to worry about Rodgers Sunday. He will miss a seventh consecutive game with a collarbone injury. Matt Flynn, 2-1 as Green Bay's starter, will get the start.

Green Bay (7-6-1), after going 0-4-1 in November, still controls its playoff fate. The Packers can win the NFC North Division by beating the Steelers Sunday and the Chicago Bears next week.

The Steelers (6-8) might be eliminated from playoff contention by the time they take the field if Miami wins at Buffalo or if Cleveland beats the Jets in the 1 p.m. games.

Neither team has enjoyed much playoff success since Super Bowl XLV. Green Bay was 15-1 in 2011 but lost its first playoff game against the New York Giants. The Packers were knocked out in the divisional round a season ago by San Francisco.

The Steelers made the playoffs in 2011 with a 12-4 record, but they lost to Denver in a wild-card game. They missed the playoffs last season.

NOTES -- Keisel, dealing with plantar fasciitis, is probable after going through a full practice Friday. Miller (not injury related), offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum (knee), receiver Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle), nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle), receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot), and safety Troy Polamalu (not injury related) are probable, too.


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.

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