Steelers’ experience gives them edge

I like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, so I told them in the locker room at Soldier Field, after they beat the Bears. But the Steelers will win Super Bowl 45.

I’m not going out on a limb here, either. Ben Roethlisberger is the best quarterback in this game. He has won two Super Bowls and that’s a huge advantage. He’s been there, dealt with the distractions and has come out on top twice. This will be the Steelers’ second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons. That’s a pretty powerful statement by my former franchise and says a lot about Mike Tomlin, their 38-year-old head coach.

I can’t tell you how much experience is worth in this game. It’s very valuable, especially when you are dealing with adversity. But the main reason I love the Steelers is their defense – did you see that first half against the Jets and how they dominated the game? And then when the Jets rallied in the second half, Pittsburgh’s defensive front merely stoned New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson on fourth-and-goal. It was a great storyline for Tomlinson, until the bitter end.

I’m excited about the Super Bowl matchup because it pits two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. Both of them have played great in the playoffs and throughout the season. Maybe some day I would pick Rodgers, but right now I can’t go against Ben and how he seemingly always comes up with the big play. Roethlisberger has a 10-2 playoff record.

If you watched the second half in Chicago, the Packers looked like they could have been beaten.

I don’t know what to say about Jay Cutler. Even before he hurt his knee, which even the Bears don’t know when it happened, Cutler’s body language didn’t show that he was excited about being in the game and firing up his teammates. I don’t know what the Bears can do about changing Cutler’s look on the field. They’ve invested so much in Cutler and traded away so many picks to get him, but he simply never looked ready to even be out there. In a big game like that … I just don’t understand it.

I will say three things. I bet the Bears wish they had Kyle Orton for the second half against the Packers. I know that Todd Collins probably cost himself a roster spot for next season. And Caleb Hanie played pretty well for a third-stringer. He made more attempts (20) in that second half than he had in his first two seasons in the NFL.

I won’t say that Hanie is the answer, and Chicago’s coaching staff knows better than me on that one. But they must explain about Cutler not playing in the second half and also his future there.

It was in the playoffs a couple years ago, when San Diego’s Philip Rivers played against the Patriots on a torn ACL. Tom Brady played the second half of this season on a stress fracture in his right foot and had surgery on it after his team lost in the playoffs.

What really impressed me about the Steelers is how Rashard Mendenhall ran and pounded the Jets behind what many say is a very average offensive line — without its best lineman, rookie center Maurkice Pouncey.

Everybody told me the Jets had a better offensive line. It sure didn’t look that way to me.

Pittsburgh won this game in the first half when New York’s first four possessions ended in three punts and a fumble.

I will say this about the Packers: They do have a good defense, too. I love the confident play of their young cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, who had two interceptions against the Bears. I think if I were running an NFL franchise these days, I would draft a lot of cornerbacks and linebackers who have pass-rush ability. The Packers have a bunch of players like this and that’s why they are in the Super Bowl. You can find receivers and don’t need to draft them.

The Packers do have a very good defense, but I think the Steelers are tougher against the run and that means rookie James Starks might be limited in two weeks.

In the locker room after they beat the Bears and said their team prayer, veteran cornerback Charles Woodson took the stage and told his teammates to play and think like one in their final game.

“I know the President isn’t going to see our game,” Woodson said, of Bears’ fan President Obama. “So let’s make sure we go see him.”

I guess the Super Bowl winner always gets invited to the White House.

Woodson’s teammates responded to his speech. This is a young team with a lot of heart and plenty of veteran leadership like Woodson. This guy has been Defensive Player of the Year and he wants a ring to cap his career.