When it comes to talking about the Super Bowl era of the NFL, there are hardly two more qualified teams to talk about championship success than the two teams that will be squaring off for the right to go to the Super Bowl as the representatives from the American Football Conference.
Between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots, there are 10 of the 50 total Lombardi trophies that have ever been handed out. And however wins this game tomorrow night will advance to their ninth Super Bowl in franchise history, which will break a four-way tie for the most appearances by any organization.
Joining the Steelers and Patriots in that category are the Cowboys and the Broncos, the former doing so already more than two decades ago, yet they haven’t been back to a conference final since then. The Broncos went to their eighth Super Bowl, winning it for the third time, just last season.
And they defeated the Patriots in doing so, denying them last year the opportunity to establish a new record for the most Super Bowl appearances by any franchise. They get yet another crack at it at the conclusion of the 2016 season with the opportunity to take down the Steelers, one of only three teams who have more Lombardis.
While the Steelers are making their 16th appearance in a conference final, which establishes a new record for the most such appearances, nothing can take away from the fact that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are playing in their eleventh conference finals together. That is unheard of, as are their six Super Bowl appearances together, winning four.
Of course, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is looking to build upon his own prior accomplishments. He is looking to travel to his fourth Super Bowl in his career, and to win his third, which would put him in awfully exclusive company.
No matter what happens between the Steelers and the Patriots on Sunday, the point is, some history is going to be made. Of course, the Pittsburgh faithful are leaning quite heavily toward one side, and heavily against the other, but we don’t always get what we want.
The fact that both teams are bringing such strong contenders into this showdown of historical titan franchises makes the outcome, I think, all the more rewarding, as both teams have a strong offense and a likely underappreciated defense.
The Patriots are rightfully favored by a fair amount. After all, they did only lose two games all year, and one of them was with their third-string quarterback, plus they are at home, and the Steelers haven’t played their best on the road despite the fact that they have won their past five such games.
Quite a bit of the Steelers’ most recent games down the stretch have been close at the end, some even requiring game-winning drives. I expect this to be a closely-contested and evenly-matched game between two teams who will play like they’ve been here before, because they have, as much as anybody else has.