Tampa, Fla Dynasty vs. doormat.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have signified success in the Super Bowl era with their stable ownership, brilliant coaching and throwback style. A victory today will give them a record sixth Super Bowl title, and they are 61⁄2-point favorites to get it against the Arizona Cardinals.
Yes, those Cardinals — a franchise that has defined dysfunction since the 1950s.
If it’s easy to believe the Steelers are back in the big game three years after winning one for the thumb against Seattle, it’s just as difficult — nearly impossible, actually — to believe the Cardinals are providing the opposition. This is a classic yin and yang setup: the defensively miserly AFC champs against the offensively potent NFC winners. The team with the proud history against the club with the forgettable past.
As if any of that matters now.
“Legacies are something you kind of worry about after the season,” Steelers All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu said.
When that season ends tonight, the Steelers will be judged by a commitment to excellence — sorry, Al Davis — established by the Steel Curtain teams of Chuck Noll in the 1970s and carried on through the Bill Cowher years. It is not something they can ignore, even if their coach, Mike Tomlin, has been on the job only two years and has few ties to Noll or Cowher.
Indeed, when they look around Raymond James Stadium and see all those fans waving Terrible Towels, the players will readily accept that extra burden every Steeler has carried for decades.
“Well, there are really a lot of reasons. Success has had something to do with it,” Steelers owner Dan Rooney said. “The fact that they have had difficult times ... in Pittsburgh and we sort of filled the void — they could have something for their pride.”
The Steelers could have something for the ring finger on the other hand after filling up five fingers following the 1974, ’75, ’78, ’79 and 2005 seasons.
The Cardinals are a different story. Since moving to Arizona in 1988, they’ve had two winning seasons.