What does it take to win the Super Bowl? Former Super Bowl participants and coaches have different opinions.

Jack Ham, a former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, thinks you need an outstanding running game and defense. Joe Theismann, a former Washington Redskins quarterback, says the key is -- you guessed it -- a great quarterback.

Former Miami Dolphins running back Jim Kiick talks about getting breaks and momentum. Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Ernie Stautner agrees with Kiick and adds that you'd better be hungry.

Talk to any player who participated in a Super Bowl and he'll tell you that besides the physical performance, it takes increased mental preparation to get ready to play amidst the hype and distractions.

"With all of the hoopla, you have to be very conscious of the reason you are there," said Theismann. "Your No. 1 priority is to win the football game. Each player has a way he gets prepared to play a game and you have to do whatever you have to do to maintain some semblance of order."

There is the media army watching your every move. Fans swarm around your hotel 24 hours a day. And, of course, there is the pressure of winning the biggest game of your career.

"It's just a football game," said Kiick, who, along with Larry Csonka, formed the Miami Dolphins' "Butch and Sundance" backfield in Super Bowls VII and VIII. "Certainly you realize it is the biggest football game of your life, but football is a game of impact and these guys have been playing since they were little kids. They know what to do.

"Once the game starts, it's a matter of hitting, it's a matter of technique and it's a matter of executing -- doing the things you've been doing all season."

When the Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII, Kiick remembered, Miami only made one mistake: Kicker Garo Yepremian's pass/fumble misadventure after a blocked field goal attempt that Washington cornerback Mike Bass turned into the Redskins' only points of the game.

"Little things turn a whole game around," Kiick said. "Something happens and one team says, 'This is a break for us. Let's take advantage.' It's breaks. It's mistakes. The only mistake we made {against Washington} was when our kicker tried to be become a quarterback. Fortunately, we were able to overcome that."

Ham played on four Super Bowl teams as a linebacker for the Steelers. He thinks the most important aspect of preparing for the game is to realize what is at stake.

"You have to be able to forget everything else that's happened. Nobody's going to remember who you beat to get to the Super Bowl," Ham said. "The playoff games were big games, but you have to forget all about that. If you lose, you've had what most people regard as a successful season, but you've lost. There's one winner and 27 losers. It's about winning the championship."

Chicago Bears safety Gary Fencik, who retired after this season, said he notices a psychological advantage the Broncos may have over the Redskins.

"There always seems to be one team that is just happy to be there and the other isn't happy until they win the Super Bowl," he said. "When we were in it {in 1985}, New England was coming off a big, emotional win against Miami and I think they felt they had accomplished what they set out to do.

"Last year, Denver was pleased to be there and the Giants were saying, 'Well, we still have to win one more game. We're not satisfied.' I see that this year, too. Vance Johnson said a few weeks ago that the disappointment of losing last year was still with him and the team wasn't satisfied until they won it. That hunger is reminiscent of the way {the Bears} felt two years ago."

Still, a team starving to win a Super Bowl can't do it without players who can get the job done. Given an opportunity to play architect of a Super Bowl winner, Theismann said, "I think I would start with the quarterback."

"An exceptional quarterback," he said, "can make a good team great and a great team a champion. I just don't think you can win a world championship unless you have somebody exceptional at that position."

Ham disagreed.

"I don't think you have to have a great quarterback," he said. "{Dan} Marino took the Dolphins as far as he could and they didn't win."

"I'd want to start with an outstanding defense and a good running game," Ham said. "A good running game can get you over the slow times. A good running game can set up the rest of your offense, your play-action passes, everything. And it gives you a chance, when you get in close, to force the ball into the end zone. A lot of times, when you get down and you try to pass the ball, you end up settling for a field goal because it's difficult to pass down there. There isn't a lot of room to run a pass offense and there isn't that much territory for the defense to defend.

"On defense I'd want to start with the defensive line," Ham said. "Those are the guys who are going to stop the other team's running game and put pressure on the quarterback. The cornerstone of our teams in Pittsburgh was Joe Greene. He was our leader on the field and off the field."

That brings up the issues of intangibles.

"Every team that gets to the Super Bowl has a special closeness," Fencik said. "People are unselfish; the team comes first."

The reason for that is simple, Kiick said. A Super Bowl champion is a team that can maintain a balance for nearly an entire season then tip the scale its way at the end.

"It takes a lot of luck, a lot of skill, a lot of everything," he said. "It's the ultimate thrill if you win and really the ultimate downer if you lose."