This past weekend gave us two fantastic conference championship games, and the results have left us with Super Bowl XLV featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.
The Steelers were able to tame the red-hot Jets in the AFC Championship. The Jets were flyin’ high after back-to-back road wins against Peyton Manning’s Colts and Tom Brady’s Patriots. To give them even more confidence, they had already beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 15 of the regular season.
Pittsburgh wasn’t about to let history repeat itself so soon.
Pittsburgh’s defense was stout as always, giving up only 70 yards on the ground. On the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers were impressive. Rashard Mendenhall was able to torch the Jets’ D for 121 yards and a score. While Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t great, throwing two picks, he was good enough to close out the game for the victory.
On the other side of the bracket, the Packers are probably lucky to be going to Dallas. Up 14-0 at halftime, normally solid quarterback Aaron Rodgers proceeded to throw two interceptions. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was hurt right before halftime. Cutler wouldn’t have made the difference, since he was already having a bad game (6-of-14, 80 yards, INT).
After an anemic showing by 12-year veteran Todd Collins (nothing new; 22TD and 24INT in his career), third-year quarterback Caleb Hanie was inserted with 57 seconds left in the third quarter and immediately led the Bears down the field for a touchdown.
If it wasn’t for one pass by Hanie that turned into a pick-six by defensive tackle B.J. Raji, this game could have turned out a lot differently. The very next possession, the Packers gave up a 35-yard touchdown pass from Hanie to Earl Bennett—a play on which safety Nick Collins, after giving up on the high pass to Bennett, missed the tackle on Bennett, allowing him to score.
Green Bay, while knocking off good Eagles and Falcons teams on the road, was thankful to get out of Chicago with a win and looks forward to a tougher challenge in Dallas.
Both franchises are extremely rich in mystique and success. The Steelers and Packers have won a combined nine Super Bowls. Here’s a breakdown of both teams’ history in the big game.
Steelers Super Bowl History
Super Bowl IX: Win, Steelers 16, Vikings 6
Super Bowl X: Win, Steelers 21, Cowboys 17
Super Bowl XIII: Win, Steelers 35, Cowboys 31
Super Bowl XIV: Win, Steelers 31, Rams 19
Super Bowl XXX: Loss, Cowboys 27, Steelers 17
Super Bowl XL: Win, Steelers 21, Seahawks 10
Super Bowl XLIII: Win, Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
Packers Super Bowl History
Super Bowl I: Win, Packers 35, Chiefs 10
Super Bowl II: Win, Packers 33, Raiders 14
Super Bowl: XXXI: Win, Packers 35, Patriots 21
Super Bowl: XXXII: Loss, Broncos 31, Packers 24
Regardless of who you’re rooting for, this has all the makings of an incredible football game. The Steelers have arguably the largest and most widespread fanbase in the league, and there is certain to be a plethora of Terrible Towels in Dallas. However, the Packers have practically the rest of the nation (minus Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota) rooting for them.
Although odds-makers have Green Bay as a two-point favorite, many believe they don’t have a shot. I’ll be the first to tell you they definitely have a shot, but here are five good reasons why Pittsburgh gets its seventh Lombardi Trophy.
Ben Roethlisberger is going to his third Super Bowl in only his seventh year in the league. He’s 2-0 so far. His stats are far from impressive: 30-of-51, TD, 3 INT. But as the old adage goes, “Just win, baby.”
The enormity and the glamour of being in the Super Bowl won’t faze Ben (or the others who’ve done this already).
This season, after serving his four-game suspension, Roethlisberger threw for 3,200 yards, 17 TDs and only five INTs, while leading his team to a 9-3 record.
Rashard Mendenhall has been a beast this year, racking up 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Steelers line was terrific against a Jets defense that was the third best against the run during the regular season, giving up only 90.9 yards per game. Pittsburgh managed 166 this past Sunday, 121 of which belonged to Mendenhall.
If there wasn’t enough motivation just being in the Super Bowl, Mendenhall watched from the sidelines as his teammates beat the Arizona Cardinals two years ago in Super Bowl XLIII. Mendenhall suffered a fractured shoulder in Week 4 of the 2008 season in a collision with Ray Lewis, ending his season.
Pittsburgh’s defense has been relentless all season long, giving up only 279 yards per game (second in the NFL) and 63 rushing yards per game (first), while adding 48 sacks (first) and earning a plus-17 turnover ratio.
Led by veterans Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, Pittsburgh has 15 players on defense alone that are back from two years ago.
Trivia question: Who is the Packers’ starting running back? Answer: Who can tell?
Listed on the Packers' team site is Brandon Jackson (who has a grand total of 18 yards on three carries in the playoffs). Listed second is John Kuhn (seven yards, three carries). Listed third on the depth chart is James Starks, who has had the best postseason of the trio: 47 carries, 140 yards and a touchdown.
Better trivia question: Who is the Packers’ starting tight end? Answer: Who knows?
Actually, it’s Andrew Quarless (WHO?). Quarless has caught all of one pass this postseason for a whopping 14 yards.
The Packers’ roster has 16 names on injured reserve. Among the names are star running back Ryan Grant. Grant came off a 2009 season of 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns and was the feature back in the Packers’ offense. This season, he went down in the first game, essentially taking the Packers’ running game with him.
In Week 5 of the season, the Packers lost tight end Jermichael Finley. In only five games, Finley had 21 catches for 301 yards, half his production of 2009. He led the team in receptions in three of the four games before his injury.
The Packers offense is going to have a big enough challenge and could definitely use the help of these two players.
Mike Tomlin is also going to his second Super Bowl. He knows the drill. He knows what to expect during the weeks leading up to the game. Not to mention he knows how to get the best out of his players.
Dick LeBeau didn’t get inducted into the Hall of Fame for nothing. He’s been coaching since 1973, 32 years of which were on the defensive side of the ball. His defensive mind, combined with the veteran leadership in his players, will be just the right formula to stall the Packers offense.