By BOB LABRIOLA
More Coverage: Steelers right on schedule
For the two teams fortunate enough still to be playing into February, it's an advantage to have a quarterback with Super Bowl experience, because a guy has to live through it to understand it.
It's still football, still four quarters of 15 minutes each, but it's different from any other game played at any other level.
For example, during every other NFL game – from the preseason to the regular season to the conference championships – the teams warm up before and then go back to the locker room for a short time before returning for the coin toss and then the opening kickoff.
At the Super Bowl, the time between the end of warmups and kickoff extends nearly an hour, certainly long enough that the players probably could use another warmup period just to get back to where they already were.
Then there's halftime, which lasts 12 minutes for every game but the Super Bowl. At Super Bowl XLIII, the halftime entertainment will be Bruce Springsteen, and the setting up and tearing down of the stage alone will take longer than 12 minutes.
Then, there's the pressure.
"They never went away," said Ben Roethlisberger of the nerves he experienced at Super Bowl XL. "It was crazy because if I do get nervous for a game they usually go away after the first play. For the Super Bowl it never went away. I think my play really showed it."
Roethlisberger's play certainly reflected something, because after carrying the offense to wins in three AFC playoff games – in Cincinnati, in Indianapolis and in Denver – he completed 9-of-21 with no touchdowns, and two interceptions in Super Bowl XL. He had a 22.6 passer rating in the game, the lowest of his career for any game in which he wasn't forced to leave early with an injury.
"You get the butterflies and feel weak. It's hard to explain," said Roethlisberger of his previous Super Bowl experience.
It's possible that the Steelers end up with an extra advantage because of Roethlisberger's Super Bowl experience, and that has to do with the way he performed in the game itself.
The statistics listed above tell the tale mathematically, and the visual evidence could be found in the winner's locker room at Ford Field, where players were celebrating while Roethlisberger sat for a while at his locker alone, with his head in his hands.
There are a lot of qualities, both physical and mental, that make Roethlisberger a top NFL quarterback, and one of those is his competitiveness. It's a lock that he remembers how well he didn't play that day at Ford Field against the Seattle Seahawks.
"I hope so," answered Roethlisberger when asked if he believes his second trip to the Super Bowl will be calmer than his first. "I think the biggest thing is this is my fifth year. That was my second year, and everything was still kind of a big whirlwind. Hopefully being five years in and more of a veteran will help."