Super Bowl 2011: Aaron Rodgers vs. Steelers Defense and Other Key Matchups
After a championship Sunday that saw both winners pushed until the end by late-game comeback attempts, we have our Super Bowl matchup.
The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers will face off on February 6th in Dallas to compete for football's ultimate prize.
On paper, there isn't much that separates the two teams. Green Bay has proven to be one of the most prolific scoring offenses this year, while Pittsburgh has looked like the Steel Curtain of old on defense.
Early predictions have Green Bay as a three-point favorite, further supporting the notion that this will be one of the most closely contended Super Bowls in recent years.
While it will be nearly impossible to accurately predict the winner, here are some key matchups that will play a big part in determining the outcome of Super Bowl XLV.
Aaron Rodgers Vs. Steelers' Defense
Rodgers led the NFL's fifth best passing attack this season despite losing key offensive weapons that made the Packers fairly one-dimensional. The bottom line is this guy is one of the most efficient passers in the league.
The Steelers will make it a priority to lessen Rodgers' impact on the game. The defensive line will have to get to him on the pass rush, while being wary of his ability to scramble and make plays out of the pocket.
Troy Polamalu will need to mix up blitzing and falling back into coverage in an attempt to throw Rodgers' timing off.
Rodgers is going to get his yards, and the Packers are going to put up points. It is up to the Steelers defense to limit just how effective the Packers quarterback will be.
Charles Woodson Vs. Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace's postseason play has not mirrored what he accomplished during the regular season, when he led the team with 60 catches for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Charles Woodson will attempt to mimic the Ravens corners and the Jets' Darrelle Revis, who limited Wallace to just four catches for 26 yards and no touchdowns in two games.
While Woodson may not be as intimidating as Revis, he has the skill set to shut down Wallace.
Without a deep threat, the Steelers could struggle to put up points.
Maurkice Pouncey Vs. B.J. Raji
Maurkice Pouncey suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday's game against the Jets, and the Steelers' run game will be predicated on his ability to recover and play through any pain he may have come Super Bowl Sunday.
Pouncey has established himself as one of the league's top young offensive linemen, and his presence has a significant effect on the Steelers' ability to run the ball.
He will be facing off with the Packers' B.J. Raji, who is sure to terrorize any backup center that the Steelers might have to put in the game.
Having Pouncey in the game allows the Steelers to focus on getting blockers in the secondary and extending run plays.
Clay Matthews Vs. Steelers' Offensive Line
Clay Matthews has terrorized opposing quarterbacks this year. With Matthews' 3.5 sacks so far this postseason, Ben Roethlisberger has to be on the lookout for him.
He will inevitably get through the O-line from time to time, and it will be the responsibility of the blocking back to pick him up. The Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall is not known for his blocking ability, so a lot of the burden will be resting on the shoulders of the offensive linemen.
Clay Matthews has the ability to swing a game in his team's favor. It is up to the Steelers to protect their quarterback and limit Matthews' plays in their backfield.
Mike Tomlin Vs. Mike McCarthy
Both Mikes have done a great job managing their respective teams this year. Tomlin overcame the early-season suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and McCarthy led his team from one that needed a win in its last regular season game to one that steamrolled the playoff competition in four short weeks.
The advantage here has to go to Tomlin just because he has been there and done that.
In a Super Bowl that is sure to be decided by the slightest of margins, will it be one of the coaches to push his team over the edge and capture the title?
Aaron Rodgers will step up and air out the Packers' attack. He will rely on the production of James Starks, who will have the freshest legs on the field.
Mike Wallace will get his receptions. Big Ben may have steered clear of Revis, but he will feel that his wide receiver matches up better with Woodson and will get him the ball.
Maurkice Pouncey will not be kept out of the Super Bowl with an ankle sprain. His ability to handle Raji will be in question though. He will need to be 100 percent in order to be the most effective, which is what the Steelers will require from him if they hope to run the ball effectively. This one's still up in the air until we learn more about Pouncey's injury.
Clay Matthews is going to get to Roethlisberger. There is little the Steelers can do about it but hope that it doesn't come at a terrible time in the game for them.
The battle of the Mikes will be well fought. Look for Tomlin's experience to give him the slight edge in this one. However, it will probably be more than coaching that decides this game.
The Green Bay Packers will be your 2011 Super Bowl champion.
The Steelers' defense is great against the run, but Rodgers and the Packers will air it out and put up a number that Big Ben can't match.
Aaron Rodgers will finally step out of the shadow of all the Brett Favre comparison talk and make a name for himself as a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.