• I like to count future Hall of Famers each year, and there really aren’t many locks (yet) on the Pittsburgh or Green Bay rosters. If Ben Roethlisberger becomes the fifth quarterback to win three Super Bowls, he’ll move closer to enshrinement consideration. If Steeler safety Troy Polamalu somehow stays healthy another four or five years (big if, there) he’ll get one of the more unique-looking busts in Canton. With 954 career receptions, Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward is eighth all-time, but the stat has become so inflated that even 1,000 catches doesn’t guarantee Hall induction (see Cris Carter).
As for the Packers, cornerback Charles Woodson (seven Pro Bowls and the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year) is on the margin. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing like a Hall of Famer, but is too young to project. Likewise linebacker Clay Matthews. The beauty of this classic match-up is that the teams aren’t superstar-driven. They’re just very, very sound teams.
• On the subject of the Hall of Fame, the 2011 class will be announced this Saturday in Dallas. Among the 17 finalists, there are two locks on the ballot for the first time: Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk. If I were given three other votes, I’d select Richard Dent, Shannon Sharpe, and Carter. The 1985 Chicago Bears defense was one of the finest units ever assembled, and two of its members — Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton — are already enshrined in Canton. With 137.5 career sacks (and eight seasons with at least 10), Dent should be the third. This will be Dent’s seventh year as a finalist. Sharpe is second only to Tony Gonzalez on the list of receptions by a tight end and played for three Super Bowl champs. And while Carter never played in a Super Bowl, his 1,101 receptions, eight consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards, and 130 career touchdowns are Hall of Fame stuff.
• The NFC has remarkably sent 10 different teams to the Super Bowl over the last 10 seasons. (Perhaps this narrows down next year’s potential champ to Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, San Francisco, or Washington. I’ll go with the Falcons.) Meanwhile, the AFC has been heavy with the triumvirate of Pittsburgh, New England, and Indianapolis, teams that collectively have played in nine of the last 10 Super Bowls.
• This will be the 32nd Super Bowl I will watch start-to-finish. A short countdown of the 10 most memorable:
10) 1988 season (49ers 20, Bengals 16) — Cincinnati’s Tim Krumrie’s injury is the most graphic in SB history. Then, of course, there was Joe Montana’s game-winning drive.
9) 1990 (Giants 20, Bills 19) — With apologies to the 2007 Patriots, this Buffalo team is the best to lose a SB.
8) 1987 (Redskins 42, Broncos 10) — This was supposed to be a blowout for Denver. Then Washington scored 35 points ... in the second quarter.
7) 1999 (Rams 23, Titans 16) — A team from Tennessee facing a team from St. Louis. For a third-generation Cardinal fan born in Knoxville, this was all the angle I needed.
6) 1985 (Bears 46, Patriots 10) — Complete. Utter. Domination. And a touchdown by the Fridge.
5) 2001 (Patriots 20, Rams 17) — Five months after September 11, 2001, it just seemed right for a team called the Patriots to win.
4) 2006 (Colts 29, Bears 17) — Again, I was born in Knoxville. Peyton Manning.
3) 2007 (Giants 17, Patriots 14) — Ridiculous catch; ridiculous upset.
2) 2009 (Saints 31, Colts 17) — New Orleans was the best team in the NFL. Say that again.
1) 1992 (Cowboys 52, Bills 17) — A long wait ended for a fan introduced to the sport by Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, and the Doomsday Defense.
• The Packers are aiming to become the fourth franchise (after Pittsburgh, Dallas, and San Francisco) to win four Super Bowls. The Steelers, of course, have the most titles with six. Each franchise has only lost one Super Bowl, the Steelers to Dallas after the 1995 season and the Packers to Denver after the 1997 campaign.
• THE PICK: Green Bay won’t be able to run against the Steeler front seven. And I’m convinced Pittsburgh’s secondary — Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, and friends — will disrupt things for Aaron Rodgers. Yep, defense wins championships. Steelers 24, Packers 13.