By JAIME ARON (AP Pro Football Writer)
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Aaron Rodgers grew up watching legendary quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young play their best games on American football’s biggest stage.
Now Rodgers can say he did the same after guiding the Green Bay Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is headed back to Green Bay for the first time in 14 years, and Rodgers can lead the championship parade in the red convertible he received as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“It’s the top of the mountain in my sport, my profession,” Rodgers said. “It’s what you dream about as a kid and think about in high school.”
The Packers raised their record of NFL titles to 13, nine before the Super Bowl era. The Steelers still own the most Super Bowl titles — six in eight tries.
Rodgers put his team ahead on their second drive and made sure they never trailed. He threw three touchdowns and had no turnovers.
He also proved Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson was right to draft him and to trade Brett Favre so he could become the starter. Favre led the Packers to their last championship, but was never the Super Bowl MVP.
“I told Ted back in 2005 he wouldn’t be sorry with this pick,” Rodgers said. “I told him in ’08 that I was going to repay their trust and get us this opportunity.”
The Packers also got big contributions from stand-in players:
“On Pittsburgh’s first snap after Green Bay made it 7-0, lineman Howard Green, a midseason pickup, bolted through the line and hit Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just as he was throwing. The ball fluttered to safety Nick Collins and he returned the interception 37 yards for a touchdown, making it 14-0.
“The Packers sacked Roethlisberger only once. The play was made by Frank Zombo, an undrafted rookie linebacker who became a starter only after an injury.
“Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee filled in for Charles Woodson and Sam Shields at cornerback. Bush had an interception and came tantalizingly close to another on the play that sealed the game
Green Bay led 21-3 with a few minutes left until halftime, but Pittsburgh had plenty of resolve.
Roethlisberger got a quick touchdown before the intermission, then another early in the third quarter. The Steelers were driving in search of a go-ahead touchdown when Rashard Mendenhall fumbled on a hit by Clay Matthews at the start of the fourth quarter.
Rodgers marched from there to a touchdown, stretching the lead and making the Packers 3-for-3 in scoring touchdowns off turnovers.
But Roethlisberger brought Pittsburgh back again, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace and following with a nifty 2-point conversion on an option. Green Bay’s 18-point lead was down to a field goal.
Rodgers got to the Pittsburgh 5-yard line on the next series, only to see Jordy Nelson fail to make what would’ve been a tough catch in the end zone. Mason Crosby kicked a short field goal, but the six-point lead left the Packers and their fans uneasy, even if Roethlisberger had to go 87 yards in 1:59 with only one timeout.
Some thought about last year’s game against Pittsburgh, when Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass on the final play of the game and they lost by one point. Others thought about the Super Bowl two years ago, when Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass in the final minute to beat Arizona.
“This time” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said, “it was our turn.”
Roethlisberger got a first down on the first play, then threw three straight incompletions. His season that began with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy ended with his head down, hands on his hips, feeling something he never experienced: defeat in a Super Bowl.
“I feel like I let the city of Pittsburgh down, the fans, my coaches and my teammates and it’s not a good feeling,” Roethlisberger said.