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Super Bowl 2011: 10 Key Matchups

Pat MarrujoContributor IJanuary 28, 2011

Super Bowl 2011: 10 Key Matchups

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Super Bowl XLV slates two of the most storied franchises in sports against each other. With two of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports, the Steelers and Packers are sure to make this one of the most memorable Super Bowls of all time.

    The Steelers are led by arguably the best defense in the National Football League. They will hit you hard, fast and often. Along with their hard-nosed defense, the Steelers are known for their smash-mouth style offense in which they implement power run with the deep pass.

    The Packers have been the most impressive team in the playoffs thus far. The Packers' potent offense is anchored by the playoff leaders in passing yards and rushing yards, Aaron Rodgers and James Starks. Their defense, led by a dominant secondary including Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Tramon Williams, has been just as impressive as their offense. Last week, they intercepted the Chicago Bears three times in their 21-14 victory.

    That’s the big picture. Now lets get a little more in depth with the top 10 key matchups of Super Bowl XLV.

10. Steelers Fans Vs. Packer Fans

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    In 2008 ESPN.com ranked the Steelers' terrible towel-wielding fans as the best fan base in the NFL. Can you guess who was in second? That’s right, it’s the Green Bay Packers. The cheese head-wearing fanatics are so crazy about their team it is said that there are more people on the season ticket waiting list than there are seats at Lambeau Field.

    It is hard for me to decide which fan base is actually strongest. Both have sold out more tan 250 consecutive home games. But on thing is for sure, the enthusiasm of these fans always tends to make an impact in these games.

9. Mason Crosby Vs. Shaun Suisham Vs. The Atmosphere

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    As I described in the previous slide, the atmosphere at Super Bowl XLV is going to be insane. Nobody is going to have to deal with that atmosphere more than the kickers.

    The Super Bowl has been decided by a field goal or less seven times, so the consistency of your place kicker is crucial. Luckily for these two teams their kickers have been amongst the best in the league all season long.

    Green Bay PK Mason Crosby has scored an amazing 126 points this season, franchise best for a kicker. This fourth-year man out of Colorado has a boot, and impressed many in week one by hitting a 56 yard field goal.

    Shaun Suisham has been Mr. Automatic for the Steelers since taking over the starting spot in week 10. Since that time he has only missed two of 18 field goals and has made all 26 of his extra point attempts.

    Both of the kickers above are seasoned vets, and when needed they can hit the game winner.

8.Lawrence Timmons Vs. James Starks

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    A sixth round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, James Starks did not see any NFL action until Week 13 with the Green Bay Packers. But in the opening round of the playoffs Starks proved that he has some spark, rushing for 123 yards on 23 carries against the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Aaron Rodgers is going to need for Starks to take some of the focus off the Packers passing game.

    But Starks has a tough task ahead of him, getting by Lawrence Timmons. Timmons may not get all the attention that Troy Polamalu and James Harrison receive, but he is actually the leading tackler on the Steelers defense.

    The former first round pick out of Florida State can make a huge difference in this game. If he can contain Starks, the Packers offense will be forced to become one-dimensional.

7. Charles Woodson Vs. Mike Wallace

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Mike Wallace was one of the Steelers best playmakers during the regular season, but has been slowed down in the playoffs. After recording 60 catches for 1,257 yards and 10 TDS in the regular season, Wallace has only four catches for 26 yards in the postseason.

    Packers cornerback Charles Woodson will look to keep Wallace on this cold streak. One of the most physical cornerbacks in the league, Woodson might have some trouble hanging with Wallace’s speed.

    I see the Steelers sending Wallace deep on Woodson. If the Pro Bowl corner can hang with his speed, he should win this match-up.

6. James Harrison Vs. Chad Clifton

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Green Bay’s LT Chad Clifton is one of the best lineman in the business. Unfortunately for him, Steelers LB James Harrison is one of the best linebackers around.

    Clifton may be the only thing that stands between Aaron Rodgers and a concussion from one of James Harrison’s trademark helmet to helmet hit. The two time Pro Bowler at left tackle last week had the job of slowing down Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. He has already proven he can slow down a dominant pass rusher, now it is time to do it again Mr. Clifton.

    James Harrison will look to wreak havoc on the Packers like he did in the divisional round against the Ravens, recording five tackles and three sacks.

    If Harrison can run wild in this match-up I don’t think that the Packers will have any chance of winning. So hopefully, for the sake of a good game, Clifton can slow him down.

5. Mike Tomlin Vs. Mike McCarthy

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Both Mike Tomlin and Mike McCarthy are candidates for the Coach of the Year award and have truly earned their spots in this Super Bowl. The two coaches come very different background and their teams reflect it.

    Mike Tomlin, who coached most of his career as a defensive coordinator prior to becoming the Steelers head coach, is looking for his second Super Bowl ring.

    While McCarthy coached offensives before becoming the head coach of the Packers, and is looking for his first ever Super Bowl ring.

    It is hard not to think Tomlin is the favorite between the two coaches. In big games I tend to favor the more experienced coach, Tomlin has already proven he can win the big game on multiple occasions.

4. Ike Taylor Vs. Greg Jennings

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The past two weeks Greg Jennings has been unstoppable. But this will be his toughest test of the postseason.

    Greg Jennings is one of the fastest players in the NFL with an undersized 5’10" 198 lb. frame. As the favorite target of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, look to see the ball thrown in his direction numerous times come Super Bowl Sunday.

    His counterpart will be Ike Taylor. Taylor is one of the biggest cornerbacks in the league, standing 6’2" and 185 pounds. Maybe the fastest player on the Steelers’ defense, Taylor can hang with Jennings.

    I am sure we will have a lot of opportunities to see this match-up be played out throughout the game. I see Ike Taylor hanging with Greg Jennings’s speed and using his four-inch height advantage to win some jump balls.

3. Ben Roethlisberger Vs. Tramon Williams

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Amidst all of the controversy, it is unfair not to call Big Ben one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. The fact of the mater is Big Ben wins ball games. Although Roethlisberger had his worse game of the season last week, throwing for only 133 yards with two interceptions and a QB rating of a dismal 35.5. But his efforts were still good enough to lead his Steelers to a 24-19 win over the cocky New York Jets.

    Meanwhile Tramon Williams has been phenomenal all postseason. He has recorded three interceptions, including two (one that went for a touchdown) that were key in the 48-21 victory over the Falcons in the divisional round.

    Bottom line, in the Super Bowl I would rather have Ben Roethlisberger on my team than anyone else in the NFL. He is a proven winner and always shows up when it counts.

2. Rashard Mendenhall Vs. AJ Hawk and Clay Matthews

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    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    After rushing for 127 yards last week against the Jets, this week Pittsburgh’s RB Rashard Mendenhall will have to face two of the most ferocious linebackers in the NFL, AJ Hawk and Clay Matthews.

    The two Packers linebackers are a handful for opposing offensives and this match up should be no different. With a combined 24 tackles, and 3.5 sacks, expect to hear Hawk and Matthews' names mentioned a lot.

    Mendenhall makes the Steelers’ offense flow. When he is running the ball hard and for positive yards, it opens up the deep pass for Roethlisberger.

    I feel Mendenhall and the Steelers offensive line will win this battle. But I don’t see Hawk and Matthews allowing to Mendenhall to run free. Expect a lot of three to five yard runs.

1. Aaron Rodgers Vs. Troy Polamalu

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Ultimately, these two superstars will probably have a huge part in deciding who comes out on top.

    Aaron Rodgers had arguably the best game out of any QB of the season in the divisional round against the Falcons, completing 86 percent of his passes for 366 yards and 2 touchdowns. It might take another prolific performance from Rodgers if he wants to lead the Packers to victory on Super Bowl Sunday.

    Troy Polamalu is considered one of the best defensive players in the NFL for a reason—he makes plays. Clutch interceptions and game saving tackles are what Steelers fans have come to expect every time Polamalu takes the field.

    I predict a late Polamalu interception that seals the victory for the Steelers over the Packers, and Super Bowl XLV.

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