Sunday, February 6, 2011

SB XLV- Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packers

An assortment of thoughts on the game:

-How will the Packers respond to the nature of the game? I’m not a big believer in the experience angle and it being in the favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but being there for the first time is bound to lead to some jitters. Will Aaron Rodgers be too charged up early? How will the rest of the Packers respond?

-How will the Steelers respond to the Packers spread sets? The Packers like to use a lot of four and five wide receiver sets. Teams spreading out and throwing short passes give the Steelers some trouble. After halftime of the AFC Championship Game, the Jets had a lot of success with the spread sets as Mark Sanchez warmed up and got everyone involved. I don’t view the Steeler secondary as a strength and if Aaron Rodgers gets time to throw the ball, it could be a long day for them.

-How will the Packers defend Rashard Mendenhall? In the first half of the AFC title game, Mendenhall unleashed fury on the Jets as he nearly rushed for 100 yards in the first half of the game. The Packers, for the all the notoriety their defense gets, are terrible in the art of stopping the run. They were LAST in the league in yards per carry against. The only reason that statistic doesn’t get more play is the fact that only five teams saw less rushing attempts against them than the Packers did. If the Packers let Mendenhall get off, then Pittsburgh gets the sight they want to see the most and that is Aaron Rodgers on the sideline spectating.

-Do the Packers fall too much in love with the pass? I realize that Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most gifted passer in the league and that attacking Steeler defense with a methodical air attack is probably for the best. With that said, you can’t become too one dimensional because those pass rushers will make life hell for the Packers offensive line and subsequently Mr. Rodgers. The Jets did a good job of that in the second half of the Title Game. While they were playing “catch up”, they still mixed in the run to keep the Steelers guessing. You cannot let James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley pin their ears back and give them a green light to see off on Rodgers.

-Does Troy Polamalu make an impact? As great as Polamalu is he hasn’t really had a significant tangible impact on the postseason to date. You would think, given his history and the magnitude of the game at hand, Polamalu will have his hand in a big play or two come Sunday. I believe when it comes to pure “game speed”, Polamalu plays faster than the majority of the players in the league. Obviously his foot speed complements that as well, as he runs like a gazelle. The thing about Polamalu that gives offenses trouble, is his penchant for seemingly being in five places at once. One minute, Polamalu will be at the line of scrimmage bluffing blitz and in the next minute he’s picking off a pass 40 yards down the field. He’s football’s David Blaine and it’s imperative the Packers identify where he is at all times, because if anybody can break the game open in the Steelers favor, it’s #43.

-Mike McCarthy vs Dick Lebeau. Who wins this matchup? As a football geek/enthusiast, this matchup is one of the most exciting this game has to offer. I think McCarthy’s offensive genius is truly overlooked and severely underappreciated. While he may have other issues as a head coach, I believe he’s one of the very best playcallers the sport has to offer. His offenses have always been well oiled machines. Dick LeBeau’s resume in the NFL and his time in Pittsburgh speak for themselves. After all the man is revered in football circles as the inventor of the zone blitz. The INVENTOR! Pittsburgh’s defenses have made life hell on quarterbacks for years on end, and have ranked near the top of the league for the majority of LeBeau’s stay. Does McCarthy attack the Steeler defense with spread sets, and try to exploit a spotty Steeler secondary? If he does, how does LeBeau counter? Does McCarthy run a more traditional offense with balance? What wrinkles will LeBeau have for Aaron Rodgers? It’s truly a football purist’s dream.

-While Dick LeBeau seems to have grabbed most of the headlines in the two week hiatus leading up to Superbowl Sunday, Dom Capers is no slouch. The Packers defense has ranked top five in each of the last two seasons. How will he unleash Matthews? How will he free him up? With the dearth of good CBs the Packers have they can afford to play Charles Woodson in a hybrid CB/S role, hence why he blitzes off the slot more than any player I’ve ever seen in my life. I think Capers will have a solid game plan, and it’s up to the players to go out there and execute it. To their credit, they have up until this point.

-How much damage will Ben Roethlisberger do with his legs? Although Roethlisberger doesn’t necessarily look fast, he’s awfully nimble for a man his size. He always makes plays with his legs, and has a penchant for making men miss. He will break contain every now and then and make a play but can the Packers minimize his affect on the game outside the pocket? Can they minimize the missed tackles?

-How will the Packers secondary handle Mike Wallace? While I realize the Steelers have more weapons, I think it is the most imperative to keep Wallace in check because he is a home run threat from anywhere on the field. He didn’t average 21 yards per catch this by accident. I already made mention of the Packers excellent secondary, and the exotic blitz schemes Capers will bring to the party. Will they do enough to stop arguably the most dangerous player that will suit up in the Superbowl?

Final thoughts and Prediction: I can’t really get excited for this game because of how close the Jets came to being in it. Also, I have a strong distaste for “Steeler nation” but that’s neither here nor there. I’ll still watch the game and stuff my face like I always do.

As far as the game itself, Aaron Rodgers has been red hot since the Week 16 game against the New York Giants. Ben Roehlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be a tough obstacle for the Packers to get over but I think the Packers win as the Steelers have issues stopping the plethora of weapons the Packers bring to the table.

Score: Packers 27 Steelers 24

Happy Superbowl Sunday!!


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