By Steve Keating
But most of the Steelers leaving Cowboys Stadium following a 31-25 loss to Green Bay in the Super Bowl Sunday left wondering if there will even be a next season for the NFL.
While the victorious Packers still had some celebrating to do, the party was over for the rest of NFL with an increasingly tense labor dispute taking over the football spotlight.
With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire on March 4, football talk for the next month will not be about X's and O's but about dollars and cents.
It is not the goal line but rather the bottom line of $9 billion business taking center stage.
"We hope there's not a lockout, we just have to try and work this thing out at the bargaining table," said Steelers owner Art Rooney II in a somber Pittsburgh dressing room.
"There's only one team that's happy at the end of the year but I'm proud of our guys, to get to this point takes a lot.
"There will be a lot of challenges next year."
There are none bigger than the one currently facing owners and players and the attempt hammer out a new agreement.
Even in the buildup to Super Bowl XLV there was no hiding from the labor dispute as the NFL and the players' union engaged in plenty of saber rattling throughout the week.
Both sides made their best sales pitches to the media in separate briefings while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's usually upbeat state of the league address was transformed into a glum state of the negotiation question-and-answer period.
"I try not to give it too much thought and leave it in the hands of the powers that be I guess," said Steelers tight end Heath Miller. "Just hope the right things get done and we're playing next year."
Whether Steelers fans will be waving their Terrible Towels next season largely depends on what happens over the next four weeks.
Without a quick deal the owners have threatened a possible lockout and warned that the nearly 500 players who will become free agents could miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses and contracts.
Despite another massively successful season with monster television ratings that allowed broadcasters to command $3 million for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial, NFL owners insist their profit margins are being squeezed and that the current business model is no longer sustainable.
What became clear during Super Bowl week was that there is much bargaining to be done with drug-testing, a rookie wage scale and a contentious plan to expand the regular season to 18 games all on the negotiating table.
"I'm pretty sure they can figure some this out," said Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. "I'm just not sure when."
(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)