DALLAS -- The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are in the Super Bowl because they have built their teams with shrewd drafting and showing restraint in free agency.
Seventeen of Pittsburgh's 22 offensive and defensive starters were selected in the NFL draft or signed as undrafted college free agents. The number would be 20 starters if rookie center Maurkice Pouncey and offensive tackles Willie Colon and Max Starks -- all draft choices -- weren't sidelined with injuries.
Of the Green Bay's 22 starters, 19 were acquired through the draft or as undrafted free agents out of college.
Both rarely venture into free agency unless they're trying to re-sign their own players. But when they do pursue players from other teams, they often nail the selections.
Among the Steelers' acquisitions is inside linebacker James Farrior, a castoff from the New York Jets. They also didn't give up on outside linebacker James Harrison, who was cut three times by the team before becoming the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
The Packers' big free agent hits were cornerback Charles Woodson, the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett.
Credit for these rosters are Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh's director of football operations, and Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson, who played linebacker from the Houston Oilers from 1975-80.
Eight of the Steelers' 10 first-round draft picks on Colbert's watch are starters, including Pouncey, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Clay Matthews III and nose tackle B.J. Raji are among the first-rounders acquired by Thompson.
Colbert and Thompson also have hit on several middle- and late-round draft picks and uncovered some undrafted gems as well.
Stability in the front office has been a key to Pittsburgh's and Green Bay's success. Colbert, a Pittsburgh native, has been with the Steelers since 2000. Thompson became the Packers' GM in 2005, but was in the personnel department for most of the 1990s under GM Ron Wolf, the architect of the Super Bowl teams in 1997 and 1998.
Bills GM Buddy Nix has said he wants to rebuild the team through the draft. Bills fans can only hope he is as good as Colbert and Thompson in landing talent.
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