Steeler Nation is buzzing right now, and it should be. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing in Super Bowl XLV two Sundays from now, marking their eighth appearance in the big game and their third appearance in the last six years.
Right now all is well in Steeler Nation, and it should be. The Steelers have overcome a lot of adversity this year and have a team that is capable of beating anyone on any given Sunday.
They have a great defense, a good running game, a good head coach and a franchise quarterback. What else could you want and/or need?
That being said, the Green Bay Packers are favored over the Steelers by 2.5 points, and for some good reasons. The Packers are red-hot and present multiple matchup problems for the black and gold.
These matchup problems have me concerned, and I don't feel as confident about a Steelers victory as I did against Baltimore and the New York Jets.
If the Steelers lose to the Packers on Super Bowl Sunday, it will because of these three potential matchup problems.
1. Turnovers/ball security
Both the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the top five in turnover margin for the 2010 NFL regular season. Both teams were also in the top five in takeaways for the season and have multiple playmakers on defense.
So far in the postseason the Packers have forced eight turnovers, including seven in their last two games. Breakout cornerback Tramon Williams has been stellar all year, picking off six passes in the regular season and adding three more interceptions in the playoffs, including one against Atlanta that he returned for a touchdown.
The Packers also boast a former Defensive Player of the Year as Williams' partner in Charles Woodson. Woodson is an older player but is still playing at a high level. He's good in run support and is a good blitzer. He's very savvy and still very much capable of making big plays.
Against the Bears, the Packers picked off three passes and ran one back for a touchdown. The Steelers have turned the ball over twice in each of their two playoff games so far. They cannot do that again against the Packers.
Ben Roethlisberger only had five interceptions during the season, but he threw two last week. Ball security is going to be key for both teams, but as a Steelers fan I'm a little concerned.
2. Steelers offensive line
Let's just be honest for a second: The Steelers' offensive line is mediocre at best. If you look at the original depth chart at the beginning of the season, the Steelers could be missing up to three starters on Super Bowl Sunday, including both of their starting tackles.
To top that off, their stud first-round pick, Pro Bowl rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, might be out with an ankle injury. Pouncey sustained a high ankle sprain during Sunday's AFC title game win over the Jets, coming out of the game in the first half and watching the second half on crutches.
If Pouncey can't play, then Doug Legursky will most likely start at center. Legursky is not a great player and was a big reason why the Steelers fumbled two snaps in the AFC Championship Game.
The Packers were second in the NFL in team sacks during the regular season. The Steelers were eighth in the NFL in sacks allowed. That's not a good sign. The Packers have three stud pass rushers in their front seven in Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins.
If Pouncey doesn't play, then the Steelers might be forced to keep six or even seven guys in to help block. If that happens, the Packers will have a huge edge because they have good cover corners, and the Steelers will have a hard time getting receivers open, something that they've had trouble with throughout the year.
To counter that, the Steelers might have to come out with a similar game plan as the one against the Jets: focusing on the run. The Packers' aggressive defense is susceptible to play-action.
3. Steelers pass defense
Every week, we hear that the opposing team won't be able to run the ball and that the Steelers don't get the ball run on them. While that is true, I'm not sure opposing teams should even be concerned about running the ball against the Steelers.
Aaron Rodgers had one of the best performances by a quarterback against the Falcons but had an average effort against the Bears defense. Chicago appears to have Rodgers' number, so you know Dick LeBeau will be looking to see what Chicago did to slow Rodgers down.
The Steelers' secondary is not a strength of the team. Ike Taylor is a good corner, but William Gay and Bryant McFadden are average at best. Troy Polamalu is a superstar but is not 100 percent healthy and has not made many big plays in the playoffs.
Last year, in a meeting between the Steelers and Packers, Rodgers threw for 383 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
When the Steelers lost to the Patriots and Saints this year, they lost mostly because of their pass defense. Drew Brees and Tom Brady took advantage of the Steelers' shortcomings in their pass defense, mostly using short, quick passes to move the ball.
The Packers offer similar problems as the Saints and Patriots because of Rodgers and the Packers' play-calling.
If the Steelers lose to the Packers, it will be probably be because of Rodgers and the Packers' high-powered passing offense.
These matchups have me very concerned about the Steelers' chances against Green Bay. This is a very tough matchup for the black and gold, and it's going to take a great effort by the Steelers coaches to come up with a game plan that will work around these matchup problems.