Super Bowl XLV Personnel Comparisons: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers

Jake SilverCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Personnel Comparisons: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Its Super Bowl time! That means we are in the midst of a two week pregame show; filled with predictions, comparisons, speculation, and all the fun stuff that comes before a big game. Anyone who has something invested in either team is wondering just who has the edge. Is it the 2-seeded Steelers, who have only played twice, and had both games at home? Or is it the road warrior Packers, coming off victories in Philly, Atlanta, and Chicago?

    Both of these teams have fought a long hard road to get to Super Bowl XLV. That goes without saying. Today, we'll look at just who has the edge at each level of both offense and defense. Both teams have hard-hitting defenses and strong offenses. With the big game only a 11 days away, its time to see who has the positional advantages.

Defensive Line

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    The defensive line is the muscle of any team. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage controls the flow of the game for the opposing offense. As both teams run a 3-4 defense, the main goal for their D-Linemen is not to rack up stats, but to occupy the blockers so that the linebackers can attack the backfield.

    Though the Steelers have the venerable Casey Hampton at nose tackle, few D-tackles in the NFL can eat blockers the way B.J Raji does for Green Bay. The combination of Raji and Cullen Jenkins is fearsome, and formidable enough to put up decent stats just between the two of them.

    The attention that has to be conferred upon them paves the way for the fast OLBs and corners of the Pack to attack QBs relentlessly.  Raji had 6.5 sacks in the regular season compared to Hampton's 1, and the DE's for Pittsburgh do not make up for the difference. The possible loss of DE Aaron Smith does not bode well for the Steelers either.  

    The Steelers defense is strong, but its main strength lies elsewhere, whereas the Packers D-Line is a mainstay of their defense.

    Edge: Green Bay Packers.

    Factor Player: B.J Raji


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    Linebackers in a 3-4 defense are really more like defensive ends. It is the duty of the OLB's (usually), to get after the quarterback and generate pressure, while the ILB's are there to stop the run. Both the Steelers and the Packers boast an elite OLB, James Harrison of the Steelers, and Clay Matthews of the Packers.

    While Matthews had a stellar season, his impressive statistics were largely boosted by the aforementioned Packers D-Line. James Harrison had stats nearly as impressive as Matthews', and yet did it with significantly less help. The Steelers linebacker core is extremely formidable, and rather versatile. While Harrison and Lamarr Woodley run the outside with pressure, top shelf ILB's James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons snuff the life out off opposing run games.

    Though A.J Hawk and the rest of the Pack's linebackers are no slouches, there is no doubt that the stronger unit in this Super Bowl wears black and gold. Both in strength and speed, there is no matching the Steeler linebackers. They do have the #1 defense, and these linebackers are 4 of the 5 main reasons why. (You know who the 5th reason is)

    Edge: Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Factor Player: James Harrison


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    There is a real discrepancy between the corners in this game. Green Bay comes into the Super Bowl with the 5th ranked pass defense, while the Steelers are 12th, easily making the corners the weakest link in their otherwise phenomenal unit.

    The Packers young corners have also really come alive in these playoffs; Tramon Williams picked Vick for the game winner in the Wild Card round, then had two interceptions of Matt Ryan the next week, including one for a touchdown. Rookie Sam Shields had a stellar NFC Championship, picking off Jay Cutler once, and then essentially sealing the game with a leaping interception of 3rd stringer Caleb Haine.

    This is all without mentioning the Packers top corner Charles Woodson; a possible Hall of Famer, 2009's defensive player of the year, and easily in the top 3 corners of the NFL alongside Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomougha.

    Edge: Packers

    Factor Player: Charles Woodson


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    Just as there is no reason to compare the Steelers' cornerbacks to the Packers, there is no reason to compare the Green Bay safeties to Pittsburgh's.

    Troy Polamalu is arguably the best safety in football. He is a hard hitting ball hawk, and nobody plays the position like he does. In case you need more proof, read this: Since Polamalu joined the Steelers, they have won 75% of the games he has played in, and lost over 50% of the ones he has missed.

    Edge: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Factor Player: Troy Polamalu

Offensive Line

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    We now come to the offense, starting with the line.

    Both of these teams have very good offensive lines, albiet for different reasons. The Packers allowed fewer sacks, but also had the 24th ranked rushing attack, while the Steelers were ranked 11th. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers was the second highest runner among quarterbacks this season, which has to give some credit to the line.

    What this matchup essentially comes down to is the Steelers losing pro-bowl rookie center Maurkice Pouncey. His teammates have been suggesting that he will miss the Super Bowl with the injury, which is unsurprising considering how he looked on Sunday after going down. This does not bode well for Pittsburgh, as backup Doug Legursky botched two snaps, one of which caused a safety.

    The lines would otherwise stack up evenly, but without Pouncey, things don't look as good for that Steeler line.

    Edge: Green Bay Packers

    Factor Player: Maurkice Pouncey (Injured)

Running Backs

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    The running back position is where a major difference between these offenses appears. The Steelers use theirs as the mainstay of the offense, while the Packers use their runners more to just mix things up.

    The Packers had a rough year in the backfield, losing their 1,200 yard rusher Ryan Grant to an ankle injury in week 1. Backup Brandon Jackson wasn't really up to snuff as a workhorse, and has proven himself better suited to 3rd down duties. James Starks has emerged nicely in the playoffs, but nobody in the Packer backfield is really a game changer.

    The Steelers on the other hand, have an elite back in Rashard Mendenhall. He had a breakout year, running for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 TD's. More importantly though, he has played very well in the postseason, most notably on Sunday when he ripped the Jets defense to shreds in the first half, essentially  winning the game for Pittsburgh. This is all without mentioning his reliable 3rd down teammate, Mewelde Moore, who can also cause headaches for opposing defenses.

    Edge: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Factor Player: Rashard Mendenhall

Wide Receivers

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    Wideouts in this game will have heavy impact if either side takes to the air early on. The matchup is good, as both sides have very impressive receivers that can make a difference.

    For deep threats, Pittsburgh has  Mike Wallace, coming off his breakout year, and Green Bay has veteran all-star Greg Jennings. Both of these players have the ability to bust a game wide open with a huge play, which means they will both get special attention. Both sides also have older receivers who are still big threats, despite their age; Hines Ward for Pittsburgh, and Donald Driver for Green Bay.

    The difference maker will be Green Bay's younger receivers. Jordy Nelson and James Jones have really come into their own in this post season, and in my opinion they severely outmatch Antwaan Randel-El and Emmanuel Sanders. Green Bay's wideouts have also been far more productive in the playoffs, which gives them the nod here.

    Edge: Green Bay Packers

    Factor Player: Greg Jennings/Jordy Nelson

Tight Ends

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    As with the running game, Green Bay had their tight end position decimated by injury this season, resulting in a patchwork corps instead. Jermichael Finley was projected to be a top-5 tight end, and probably would have been, had he not been hurt so early on. Though rookie starter Andrew Quarless is promising, he is still raw and has a tendency for drops, as was seen on Sunday.

    The Steelers have a strong veteran in Heath Miller. Not a flashy player, but throughout his career Miller has always gotten the job done. Good at both blocking and catching, Heath Miller is easily the best tight end in Super Bowl XLV

    Edge: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Factor Player: Heath Miller


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    Under most circumstances, this would be the most important comparison, except that it is too easy.

    Some might argue that Roethlisberger's two rings would place him ahead of Rodgers here, but let us not forget that after two Super Bowl wins, he has twice seen one of his wide receivers win MVP.

    Aaron Rodgers is the superior quarterback by far, and there really should be no argument there. He is explosive, elusive, and accurate. He may not have played in the big game yet, but he has shown he can play well when the game matters. In this postseason alone he has over 700 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, a mere 2 interceptions, and an astounding 71% completion rate. There is no way to overlook Rodgers as the best signal caller in this Super Bowl.

    Brett Who?

    Edge: Green Bay Packers

    Factor Player: Really?


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    These two coaches are obviously good at what they do; their teams are in the Super Bowl. However, Mike Tomlin is a mere 38 years old, and is coaching this game for his second ring. Mike McCarthy is likewise good, but he has not done what Tomlin has; reach the Super Bowl as the #2 seed for the second time in 3 years. Dick LeBeau is also probably the most venerable defensive coordinator in the NFL, and the nod just has to go to the Steelers coaching staff.

    Edge: Pittsburgh Steelers


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    With the sides appearing evenly matched, this Super Bowl seems destined to be a great one. Two classic franchises in a battle for the Lombardi Trophy; one with the most Super Bowl wins ever, and the other a historic team trying to shake off the shadow of a fallen legend. No matter the outcome, it is sure to be a thriller right up to the very end.

    However, there is something to consider: Every player in Pittsburgh who isn't in their first or second year with the team has a ring already. Many of them have 2. They have played only 2 postseason games, both comfortably at home.

    The Packers have been fighting for their lives since week 16. They have played 5 straight must-win games, and succeeded. In this postseason their entire team has caught fire. None of their players have a ring. The whole team is hungry, and playing with a chip on it's shoulder. Super Bowl XLV will be the day Rodgers cements himself as a Green Bay legend once and for all.

    Super Bowl XLV Edge: Green Bay Packers