Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC Champion) vs. Green Bay Packers (NFC Champion)
Date, Time, Network: February 6th, 6:30 PM EST, FOX
Summary: The Super Bowl is nothing new to the Steelers, who look to win their third title in six years. These upstart Green Bay Packers are the first NFC 6th seed to reach the Super Bowl, and look to complete what has been a tremendous playoff run. The two teams will try to add to their trophy cases in Dallas, a city that would rather not of seen either team play in this game.
How they got here: The Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens late to win their Divisional Round matchup. In the AFC Championship Game, they gained an early 24-0 lead, only to hold on for a close 24-19 win. The Packers earned a difficult win at Philadelphia, cruised at Atlanta and won at Chicago thanks to a few key plays from their defense.
Offense: On paper, it would seem like the Packers have a distinct edge. QB Aaron Rodgers did not have a particularly great game, passing for two interceptions and no touchdowns, but his threat on the ground can not be ignored, having run for a touchdown in two straight playoff games. James Starks has re-established the Packers running game once thought to be lost when Ryan Grant went down to start the season. Rodgers also has plenty of talent at receiver to pass to, with Greg Jennings leading the way alongside James Jones, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson.
However, don’t discredit Pittsburgh’s offense either. Their running game fuels its success, with Rashard Mendenhall leading the way. Mendenhall had 121 yards rushing and 32 yards receiving against the Jets’ vaunted rush defense, and while QB Ben Roethlisberger did not have a great game, his one rushing touchdown brought down by two interceptions, he always seems to make just enough key throws to lead his team to victory, as he did in Pittsburgh’s final drive against the Jets with two key passes for first downs to run down the clock.
Regular Season Ranks
Scoring Offense: Pittsburgh 12th | Green Bay 10th
Total Offense: Pittsburgh 14th | Green Bay 9th
Pass Offense: Pittsburgh 14th | Green Bay 5th
Rush Offense: Pittsburgh 11th | Green Bay 24th
Defense: The top two teams in scoring defense in the regular season? That would be the Steelers and Packers. Both teams play a very rough style of defense that applies pressure to the quarterback and jumps at any opportunity to regain the ball. Pittsburgh led the league in sacks, with Green Bay right behind them with one fewer. Both teams were among the league leaders in pass deflections and interceptions, and as each team showed in their respective Conference Championships, both are very capable of converting turnovers into instant points.
These active defenses are thanks to a wide variety of athletes for both the Steelers and Packers. For Pittsburgh, James Harrison still hits as hard as ever while Troy Polamalu remains an ever vigilant threat in the secondary. Green Bay’s defense has the dynamic Clay Matthews lurking at linebacker, while the experienced Charles Woodson hangs out in the secondary alongside Tramon Williams who has been instrumental in Green Bay’s playoff run. With all of these playmakers either trying to intercept the quarterback or sack him, the presence of the running game will be a vital factor in this game.
Regular Season Ranks
Scoring Defense: Pittsburgh 1st | Green Bay 2nd
Total Defense: Pittsburgh 2nd | Green Bay 5th
Pass Defense: Pittsburgh 12th | Green Bay 5th
Rush Defense: Pittsburgh 1st | Green Bay 18th
Special Teams: While the game will be in the comfy though likely hostile Cowboys stadium, the pressure could be on either Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham or Packers kicker Mason Crosby to make a clutch kick or two. Neither have been the utmost models of consistency in their careers. The Packers did an excellent job of containing punt returner Devin Hester in their game against Chicago, something they’ll need to continue against the Steelers in a game where field position will play a larger factor than normal.
Intangibles: This will be the third Super Bowl in the still young career of Ben Roethlisberger, who didn’t exactly light things up in either of his other two Super Bowls. These Steelers are as experienced as they come when it comes to playing in Super Bowls. The Packers are road warriors, however, and while this is mostly a neutral-site game, they seem to have become used to playing away from Lambeau Field, while the Steelers have played both of their playoff games at home.
Prediction: Well, I’m officially in the “lost credibility” zone when it comes to picking these playoff games. Missing both the Jets and Bears last week, I am now 0-6 in the last two rounds. I would even dare say that betting for the team I choose to lose would prove quite profitable.
Well, in what may surely be another poor set of choices leading to my 0-7 finish, I am picking the Pittsburgh Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV. I expect there to be at least one defensive touchdown, perhaps one for both teams even, and I believe Mendenhall will have an excellent game, enough to be considered Super Bowl MVP. Expect a close game, decided at the end with an interception by a Steeler to seal the game and Pittsburgh’s seventh title.
Green Bay: 13
Source for stats:
ESPN, Statistics Page, ESPN.com