Packers’ Pittsburgh roots run deep, until Sunday
Published 12:12 pm Saturday, February 5, 2011
McCarthy, Capers and Kuhn all have connection with Steelers
DALLAS — Mike McCarthy grew up in Pittsburgh, rooting for the Steelers and helping out in his family’s bar. When he was hired as the Packers coach in 2006, general manager Ted Thompson described McCarthy as “Pittsburgh macho” — whatever that means.
Dom Capers was a defensive coordinator for the Steelers, where he coached Kevin Greene and Darren Perry. John Kuhn got a Super Bowl ring out of his brief stay with the Steelers, even though he was only on the practice squad.
Those loyalties and connections won’t mean much come Sunday, when they’ll all be wearing Packers colors and doing anything they can to beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl.
“Growing up in Pittsburgh is a big part of who I am, but I am a Green Bay Packer and we’ve come here to claim the Lombardi Trophy,” McCarthy said.
Perry played seven seasons as a defensive back in Pittsburgh and later became an assistant coach there, and still has strong feelings for the Steelers.
“It is a special opportunity to go against a team that you played for and coached for,” said Perry, who coaches the Packers’ safeties. “A lot of history, great organization, so there are a lot of similarities. You’ve still got some ties with some of the players and coaches so that makes it even more interesting.”
But Greene, who played three seasons for the Steelers, said he couldn’t care less which team is in the Packers’ way.
“I guess I am kind of indifferent about the fact that they are the Pittsburgh Steelers,” linebackers coach Greene said. “It’s just another team and we really need this win. We really have to win this game.”
Perry said he won’t be thinking about his time in Pittsburgh once the game starts.
“I’m sure there will be some emotion being moved throughout the whole course, just because of the connections,” Perry said. “Once that ball’s kicked off, I think most of that will go out the window and you won’t really realize that part of it until after the game.”
Greene and Perry are in Green Bay because of Capers, who McCarthy hired before the 2009 season to turn around an underperforming defense by installing the 3-4.
Capers was the Steelers’ defensive coordinator from 1992 to ’94 before taking over as the coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers.
Greene, who played for Capers in Pittsburgh and Carolina, credited Capers for giving him his first chance to coach.
“I respected Coach Dom when he was my coach, and I think he respected me as a player because of the level of my commitment and the fact that I was taking this serious and that I was trying to not just wing it,” Greene said. “That I was trying to really be a student of the game, it was great that he remembered how I approached the game when I played and gave me an opportunity here.”
Greene and Perry both were members of the Steelers team that lost the Super Bowl in January 1996, and Perry doesn’t plan on losing this time.
“You get to this point, it’s a sickening feeling,” Perry said. “To experience that part of it, you really don’t want to go through it again because it’s devastating.”
Kuhn, meanwhile, has a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers but doesn’t brag about it. Before coming to the Packers and becoming a folk hero as a fullback who can carry the ball, Kuhn was a member of the Steelers team that won the Super Bowl in February 2006.
Now Kuhn wants to make a difference on the field — even if it comes at the expense of his old team.
“It is pretty funny and fitting even, that I would get the opportunity to play against them in the Super Bowl and I am very happy for that,” Kuhn said. “But it would not have mattered. It could have been any team in the AFC and we’d have the same focus and determination that we do in this game.”