Super Bowl 2011: 20 Bold Predictions for Steelers vs. Packers

Ryan FallerAnalyst IJanuary 24, 2011

Super Bowl 2011: 20 Bold Predictions for Steelers vs. Packers

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    The 2011 Super Bowl between Green Bay and Pittsburgh could be one for the ages. If nothing else, the nostalgia is unparalleled, pitting perhaps the two most successful franchises in NFL history against one another.

    It’s a dream matchup. Now, let’s just hope for a close game.

    Which shouldn’t be a problem if each of these 20 bold predictions magically comes to fruition.

Clay Matthews Will Record a Sack on the Game’s Opening Play

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    There’s somewhat of a feeling-out process that defines the infantile stages of a big game, particularly the Super Bowl, but the jitters are usually confined to the offenses.

    Opting to pass on the game’s opening play, Ben Roethlisberger is taken down for a seven-yard loss by Matthews, who begins what will become an auspicious performance with some fierce pressure off the right edge.

James Starks Will Carry the Ball Five Times on Green Bay’s Opening Drive

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    You know the Packers will be wary of the Pittsburgh pass rush, which is why they’ll test that awesome Steelers run defense early on, and with much success.

    The rookie from Buffalo carries the ball five times for 32 yards to move the offense into position for a field goal by Mason Crosby to open the scoring.

Rashard Mendenhall Will Break a Run of 25 Yards on Steelers’ Second Possession

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    At 225 pounds, Mendenhall can pound the ball between the tackles, but as he has showed in his three years in the league, including against the Jets in the AFC Championship, he’s got the feet to bounce a run outside for maximum yardage.

    On 3rd-and-short from around midfield, Mendenhall gets an excellent combo block from tackle Flozell Adams and tight end Heath Miller and gains the edge, running 25 yards down the sideline to the Green Bay 19.


B.J. Raji Will Lead a Key Defensive Stand on the Goal Line in the First Quarter

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    With Green Bay up 3-0 late in the opening quarter, a lengthy Pittsburgh drive stalls at the 1-yard line after the Packer defensive tackle slides through the A-gap to stuff running back Rashard Mendenhall in the backfield to force a field goal by Shaun Suisham.

Sam Shields Will Intercept a Pass to Kill a Pittsburgh Drive in the Second

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    The undrafted free agent from Miami (Fla.) has become an unsung hero in the Green Bay secondary. His fourth-quarter interception sealed the NFC Championship, and his ball skills and athleticism will play a factor again.

    The game tied at three, Shields steps in front of a pass intended for Hines Ward and returns it 25 yards, giving the Green Bay defense a huge play on back-to-back Pittsburgh possessions.

Mike Wallace’s Catch on 3rd-and-Long to Lead to a Field Goal in the Second

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    Unsuccessful on their initial two possessions of the game, the Steelers are in need of a spark, and they get one from Wallace, arguably the offense’s most dynamic weapon.

    Given ample protection on a 3rd-and-11, Roethlisberger slings a 28-yard completion to Wallace along the right hash, setting up another Suisham field goal that gives Pittsburgh a short-lived 6-3 lead late in the second quarter.

Greg Jennings Will Have Six Catches by Halftime

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    A fifth-year pro from Western Michigan, Jennings finished the regular season ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,265 receiving yards, a career high.

    His production in Super Bowl XLV won’t translate to the scoreboard, but Jennings, who has broken the 1,000-yard mark in each of the past three seasons, will haul in six balls for 57 yards in the first half.

Aaron Rodgers Will Rush for 50 Yards and a Score in the First Two Quarters

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    Much has been said about Rodgers’ ability to scramble, but his feet and mobility in the pocket will be put to the ultimate test on Feb. 6 against a Steelers defense that led the league in sacks during the regular season.

    Under siege for much of the first half, Rodgers buys time for himself and finds open targets, but his running ability provides the Packers with the lead going into the locker room.

    Faced with third down deep in Pittsburgh territory, Rodgers rolls right and punches it in from six yards to give Green Bay a 10-6 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second.

Ben Roethlisberger Will Complete Less Than 50 Percent of His First-Half Passes

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    It will be a frustrating first half for Big Ben, who manages to navigate the offense deep into Green Bay’s end of the field only to be turned back both times.

    Against the Ravens and Jets, Roethlisberger completed 59 and 52 percent of his passes, respectively, and his woes continue against the 3-4 Green Bay defense, whose pressure holds the two-time Super Bowl winner to a 45 percent completion percentage.

The Packers Will Lead 10-6 at Halftime

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    Halfway through Super Bowl XLV, the Packers hold the 10-6 advantage, paving the way for an exciting final 30 minutes of football.

    Thoughts? Agree to disagree? What do you think the halftime score will be?

Jordy Nelson Will Open the Second Half with a 50-Yard Kickoff Return

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    One of Green Bay’s primary return men, Nelson averaged 22.5 yards on 22 returns during the regular season but has yet to take one to the house.

    He won’t do it against Pittsburgh, but he will take the opening kickoff of the second half 50 yards to the Steelers’ 47-yard line to set up a short field for Rodgers and the offense.

Aaron Rodgers Will Complete Four of Five Passes on the Ensuing Scoring Drive

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    Given great field position, the Packers take advantage and make a statement to begin the second half.

    Rodgers completes four of his five passes on the drive, including a pair to James Jones, who catches a 11-yard strike to give Green Bay a seemingly commanding 17-6 lead with less than 25 minutes remaining.

Troy Polamalu Will Grab a Pick-Six in the Third to Bring the Steelers Back

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    As the adage goes, big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. The Pittsburgh offense unable to generate much, the undisputed leader of the defense comes up with one of the game’s biggest plays.

    The Packers up by nine and driving again, Polamalu scoops up a tipped pass at the Pittsburgh 39 and returns it 61 yards for a score, trimming the Green Bay lead to four and setting the stage for the fourth quarter.

James Starks Will for Run for 60 of His Game-High 119 Yards on a Single Drive

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    With momentum stacked on the Pittsburgh sideline, the Packers respond with perhaps the game’s most crucial drive. Mixing in an intermittent pass, Green Bay turns to the running game in an attempt to chew the clock.

    Relatively silent since the first quarter, Starks gives the offense exactly what it needs, carrying the ball eight times for a huge chunk of his game-high 119 yards as the Packers take nearly nine minutes off the clock and move into position for a potentially decisive score.

James Harrison Forces a Field Goal Late in the Third with His Lone Sack

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    Harrison made the most crucial play—and one of the most memorable in championship history—in Super Bowl XLIII against the Cardinals, intercepting Kurt Warner and returning it 100 yards for a score.

    His sack of Rodgers late in the third to kill Green Bay’s drive, which comes after abusing tackle Chad Clifton, won’t be as dramatic, but it will be just as vital and timely to the Steelers’ efforts.

Roethlisberger, Offense Drive 80 Yards to Tie Game at 20 Early in the Fourth

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    With 15 minutes remaining, down by seven, the Steelers absolutely need something positive to happen on offense, which is yet to produce anything outside of a pair of field goals.

    What transpires is one of the more beautiful drives in Super Bowl history. Covering 80 yards in 12 plays, the drive includes five third-down conversions, two of which are converted by a scrambling Roethlisberger, and is capped by a four-yard touchdown reception to Heath Miller.

35-Yard Reception by Donald Driver Leads to Go-Ahead Scoring Plunge by John Kuhn

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    Super Bowl XLV is a quiet day for Driver, a 12-year veteran from Alcorn State, but his contribution is as significant as that of any other player on the field.

    In search of the go-ahead score inside the final three minutes of the game, the Packers face a 3rd-and-8 from the Pittsburgh 42. Escaping the pocket, Rodgers rolls right and zings a pass down the seam to an open Driver, who goes up high and holds on after getting sandwiched by Polamalu and fellow safety Ryan Clark.

    Two plays later, the Packers take the lead for good on a two-yard touchdown run by fullback John Kuhn, who gets his only touch of the game.

Matthews Clinches Victory with Last-Minute Strip-and-Sack of Roethlisberger

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    It seems only fitting that Matthews should finish what he started. The NFL’s sack leader records seven tackles but remains somewhat quiet after his first-quarter takedown of Roethlisberger.

    He awakens just in time, beating Jonathan Scott off the edge on second down and stripping Roethlisberger of the ball before recording his second sack and the Packers’ fourth overall.

    After a lengthy scrum, Green Bay recovers at the Pittsburgh 36 but needs only take a series of knees to run the clock to expiration.

Green Bay Wins Fourth Super Bowl Title with 27-20 Win

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    It’s been 14 years, but one of the NFL’s greatest-ever franchises is back atop the summit.

    The Packers become the second No. 6 seed to win the Super Bowl, joining, coincidentally, the Steelers, who beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super XL as a wild card in 2006. Aaron Rodgers silences whatever critics remained in the post-Brett Favre era in Green Bay.

    Meanwhile, the Steelers, who already own the most in history with six, squander a chance to tack on another Super Bowl win. Same goes for Ben Roethlisberger, who remains two rings shy of former Steeler Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana, who both won four titles as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to have more than three.

Clay Matthews Edges Starks, Polamalu for MVP Honors

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    Polamalu prevented a potential blowout, and Starks posted one of the best performances ever for a rookie back, but Matthews gets the nod for making the game’s decisive play.

    Not yet 25 years of age, in two seasons, Matthews has led the league in sacks once, been to the Pro Bowl twice, won a world championship and earned Super Bowl MVP honors. Not bad.