It’s finally here. We’ve waited for nearly 2 weeks for this game. Steelers & Packers are both rich in playoff history and maybe a bit of a shock that both are here. Now they’ll duel in Dallas, and the team with the most grit may win.
Green Bay Offense vs. Pittsburgh Defense
We know about the many successes Aaron Rodgers has had in the postseason. He’s torn up defenses, but against the Bears he did struggle some. He threw 2 picks, and he looked human for the first time in the playoffs. And against the Bears, Rodgers wasn’t able to spread the field with his usual compliment of receivers as often. But, indoors on turf, he’ll be able to at least put looks up with 5 wideouts spread wide. The running game has maybe been the most shocking part of the Packers run to the Super Bowl. They’re running the ball better than they have in the last 3 seasons, and James Starks is the key to that success. But, of course the Steelers stop the run better than anyone in the league. The Steelers are coming into the game thinking the Packers will pass, which leaves some holes for Starks to run through. If he’s able to exploit those mismatches up front when the Steelers drop off in coverage, then Green Bay will be able to dictate offensive tempo, and then Aaron Rodgers can exploit matchups. Troy Polamalu, the defensive player of the year, had an off game against the Jets, so expect him to cover the field better than he ever has before, and that may take away guys like Andrew Quarless, and Jordy Nelson. The Steelers have to do what only the Bears did marginally well, and that’s sack Aaron Rodgers in order to get the upper hand. They can, and I think they will, as the lead the NFL in sacks. Even though the Packers offense is great, and the Steelers haven’t faced an offense this proficient since New England in Week 10, I think the Steelers will be able to contain the Packers very well, so they get the check.
Pittsburgh Offense vs. Green Bay Defense
Ben! Get out of the Piano Bar! You have a game to prepare for! Anyway Big Ben knows what to do in games like these. Even if his stats don’t amaze you, he gets the job done. And with his ability to scramble in the pocket and keep plays alive, the Packers may have trouble getting there, even with Dom Capers exotic blitzes. Even though Maurkice Pouncey says he’ll play, I doubt it. So, Doug Lagursky will have to play better than he did against the Jets in order to contain “the freezer” B.J Raji. The Packers defense is exotic; they throw so many looks at you and blitzers from different angles, that I do think Ben will be confused by the scheme. He surely was by the Jets in the 2nd half. But what the Steelers were able to do against the Jets was run the ball, maybe better than anyone against one of the league’s best run D’s. If the Steelers can get that kind of success against the Packers D, unlikely as it may sound, they’ll have the clear advantage with Ben Roethlisberger now becoming able to attack the Packers secondary. Just look back to their game in 2009. Ben took a pounding against the Jets, and there is no doubt he’ll likely face a similar barrage on Sunday. I think that again, the D is just a bit stronger than the O here, so the Packers get the check.
Advantage: Green Bay
Intangibles: If Green Bay had a choice about where they’d want to play the Super Bowl, this may be the choice. They can spread the field without fear of the turf taking them out, and no weather can hurt them, except on the way in. The Steelers have better special teams, and that will definitely play a role in the game. But what I look to most of all is experience. That is something the Packers just don’t have, and despite all of the talk that it won’t, it will affect them. The Steelers have been to a Super Bowl once under Mike Tomlin, so they know what to expect. That’s why I give the Steelers the check.
Player to Watch: Ryan Clark
Really? The Free Safety? Sure, why not? His role was understated against the Jets. With Troy Polamalu having an off game, he needed to step up and make big plays at big moments, and he delivered. If the same is to happen again, then he’ll need to have a big game, or else the Packers could run the field easily with their speed and ability to vertically stretch the field. He is going to be the one responsible for guys like Andrew Quarless, who will need to be covered pretty well, as Aaron Rodgers does like to look in his direction. He will be a very important piece to the Steelers D on Sunday.
This maybe is one of the most dead even games I’ve ever remembered having to pick. I’ve gone back and forth constantly on the pick. But, I go with experience in games like this, and the Steelers have it in abundance, while the Packers don’t. The Steelers will win their 7th Super Bowl.