By this time next week a new champion would have already been crowned. One proud, traditional franchise will add to their history by claiming the title in Super Bowl XLV.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it would be their seventh championship, including their third in sixth years, securing a second dynasty. The Green Bay Packers could win their fourth, joining only the Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and San Francisco 49ers with at least four Lombardi trophies.
Each team is led by an elite quarterback who likes to not only make plays with their arms, but also with their feet.
Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers feeds off of making something out of nothing and will raise his level of play after contact while the Packers Aaron Rodgers pocket mobility by be only second to Michael Vick.
Though each offense can display glitz and glamour, it is the defenses that could throw the ultimate knockout punch to decide the champion.
For Mike Tomlin, the mastermind Dick LeBeau will need his league leading scoring defense, allowing only 14.5 points per game in gear for the offensive juggernaut that is the Packers. He is no short of big game players to work with, including James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley.
On the opposite sideline, Mike McCarthy has a number of former Steelers running his defense, including defensive coordinator Dom Capers, one of the best defensive minds in the game. He helped turn Green Bay’s defense around behind Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson into the league’s second rated scoring defense.
The contenders are set and the final training sessions are in place. On Sunday we will find out who the champion of the world is. Here is the tale of the tape for Super Bowl XLV.
Pittsburgh released kicker Jeff Reed in favor of Shaun Suisham and lost punter Daniel Sepulveda to an ACL injury, bringing in Jeremy Kapinos to replace him.
Both players have done quite well, with Suisham making 16 of 18 field goals, including two for three in the postseason while Kapinos averaged nearly 43 yards per punt.
The Packers have a solid kicking game, though, with Mason Crosby hitting 22 of 28 regular season field goals and two of three in the playoffs and punter Tim Masthay averaged 43.3 yards per punt between the regular and postseason.
Though they are close to even, statistically speaking, Suisham is best known for missing the big kick while with the Dallas Cowboys.
The difference could come down to the return games.
While the Steelers have an edge in kick return yardage, 23.5 to 20.1 yards per kick return, their coverage units, despite a strong start this season, has began to falter lately.
Green Bay has an edge in the punt return game as Pittsburgh usually depends on Antwaan Randle El to call for the fair catch.
Edge: Green Bay
Pittsburgh’s offensive line took a huge hit when Maurkice Pouncey went down with an ankle injury during the AFC Championship game.
The rookie Pro Bowl center was easily the Steelers best offensive lineman and now the Steelers will have to depend on former undrafted rookie Doug Legurksy. He isn’t the only former undrafted player on the line. Ramon Foster has been starting at right guard.
Further injuries along the offensive line have left Pittsburgh with Jonathan Scott at left tackle and Flozell Adams at right tackle. Adams has done a great job all season and the veteran is excited to play for a Super Bowl in the city where he began his career in 1998.
Green Bay’s offensive line is not much better, but at least healthier.
Veteran Chad Clifton is a dependable left tackle, however much of the focus will be on the other side of their line where rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga has struggled for much of the season.
Bulaga will match up against LaMarr Woodley, who has 10 sacks in six career playoff games. Without tight end help, Bulaga could be in for a long evening
Statistically speaking, the lines are close. Green Bay has allowed 38 sacks to 43 for Pittsburgh while the Steelers hold the edge in rushing, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and 15 touchdowns to only 3.8 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns for the Packers.
Despite this, the injury issues are another hurdle for the Steelers to overcome.
Edge: Green Bay
Name Green Bay’s starting running back without looking? Don’t worry if you couldn’t do it, I had to look as well.
Brandon Jackson led the Packers in the regular season with 703 yards leaving Aaron Rodgers as their second leading rusher.
James Starks has taken over in the postseason, rushing for 263 yards on 70 carries, but averaged only 3.7 yards per carry.
Green Bay will also use John Kuhn, a former Steeler, on occasion, but he has not been an impact player this season or during the playoffs.
The Steelers Rashard Mendenhall had a breakout season, rushing for 1273 yards and 13 touchdowns during the regular season.
Mendenhall’s game picked up in the playoffs, running hard and scoring twice against a stout Baltimore defense and possibly had the best game of his career against New York in the AFC Championship game where he ran for 121 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.
Pittsburgh is deep at the position as well with Mewelde Moore, a good third down back who is a solid blocker and has great hands. Their short yardage back, Isaac Redman, is good for nearly five yards per carry.
Much is made of the Green Bay wide receiving corps and for good reason.
Greg Jennings is their big play threat, who averaged 16.5 yards per reception in the regular season as he went over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has come up big in the playoffs as well, with 17 receptions for 239 yards.
James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver round out Green Bay’s receiving corps. They averaged about 49 receptions each in the regular season and combined for 11 touchdowns.
Though not a major part of the offense, Andrew Quarless had 25 receptions this season, including playoffs, and only one touchdown.
Though they may not get the same press as Green Bay’s group, Pittsburgh’s receivers are pretty good as well.
Mike Wallace is the counterpart to Jennings. Wallace had 1257 receiving yards in the regular season and a very impressive 21 yards per reception. He added 10 touchdowns.
Since the playoffs began, however, Wallace has been the subject to double coverage and his numbers have dropped, catching only four balls for 26 yards. Though, Wallace made one of the biggest receptions of his career against Green Bay last season, a tiptoe reception for the game-winning touchdown in a thrilling Steelers victory.
Hines Ward will hear the retirement whispers all week, but he still has a lot left in the tank as he is playing for his third Super Bowl ring. He has five receptions and a touchdown in the postseason.
Rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have come up big late in the season. They combined for 44 receptions for 543 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season.
Brown, though, has been a star in the playoffs, catching four balls for 89 yards including a crucial 58-yard pass to set up the game winning score against Baltimore and the game-sealing reception on a third down against New York.
Heath Miller will create mismatch problems for the Packers as he has seven receptions and a touchdown in this year’s playoffs.
A great 3-4 defense begins is focused around a great nose tackle. Each team has one. Pittsburgh with Casey Hampton and Green Bay with B.J. Raji.
Raji has played well in the playoffs so far with a sack and an interception for a touchdown. He is flanked by Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett.
While the Packers defensive line has helped free up space for their linebackers, particularly Clay Matthews, they have been vulnerable against the run allowing 114.9 yards per game and an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
The Steelers defensive line has been dominant without their best lineman, Aaron Smith, for most of the season.
They had a historic season stopping the run, allowing only 62.8 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry average.
Hampton is a rock in the middle and Brett Keisel is very athletic on the right end and is their best lineman at batting down the ball.
The perceived weak link, Ziggy Hood, has come into his own, playing the best football of his short career in the playoffs.
Green Bay’s defense is littered with Pro Bowlers and is led by Charles Woodson.
The 13-year veteran had a very good season with two interceptions and will be looked at to shut down one of Pittsburgh’s top receivers.
Tramon Williams is the playmakers of the secondary with six interceptions in the regular season. He added another three and a touchdown in the postseason.
At safety, Nick Collins is one of the better safeties and had four interceptions this season.
The Packers secondary were a part of the reason that their defense held opponents to only 194.2 passing yards per game in the regular season while quarterbacks only had a 67.2 rating.
For Pittsburgh, the secondary is the weak link. Ask Bryant McFadden what Aaron Rodgers is capable of. He was a first hand witness as a member of the Arizona Cardinals last season.
Green Bay will likely attack the injured McFadden, so Ike Taylor and William Gay must step up.
Taylor is the closest thing that the Steelers have to a shutdown cornerback, but has been burnt in big games in the past, including slipping against Santonio Holmes last week and getting beat by Larry Fitzgerald in Super Bowl XLIII.
Gay has improved his performance as the nickel back and will see a lot of action as the Packers are very deep at receiver.
Ryan Clark is a dependable free safety with a big interception against the Ravens a few weeks ago, but is a bit slow.
The x-factor is Troy Polamalu, maybe the best player on the field for both teams.
Polamalu had seven interceptions in the regular season but has also suffered from an Achilles’ injury. He has spent much of the time in deep coverage during the playoffs.
Edge: Green Bay
While the defensive line is the key to a good 3-4 defense, it is the linebackers that are needed to make the plays and both the Packers and Steelers have outstanding playmakers at linebacker.
Clay Matthews is the guy that the Steelers will have to watch out for in Green Bay’s defense. With 13.5 sacks in the regular season and 3.5 in the playoffs, Matthews has established himself as one of the better pass rushers in the league.
Matthews is very athletic and can play all over the field and that is because A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop can be depended upon in the middle.
The Packers inside linebackers rated as the team’s top two tacklers, each with over 100 tackles, and they combined for four interceptions during the season.
The other outside linebacker, Erik Walden, is a journeyman, but does have four sacks since Week 17.
Pittsburgh, however, is stacked at linebacker.
James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley may be the best pass rushing duo in the league, combining for 20.5 regular season sacks and five in the playoffs.
Harrison owns the longest play in Super Bowl history and Woodley was the fastest player to reach 10 postseason sacks.
James Farrior was rejuvenated this season and has not slowed down in the playoffs. The 36-year old linebacker is the leader of the defense and gets to play next to Lawrence Timmons, one of the most athletic linebackers in the league.
Timmons had a breakout season, leading the team in tackles. He has the ability to play the run and drop into coverage and is easily the most athletic linebacker in the Super Bowl.
Mike McCarthy, the fifth year head coach of the Green Bay Packers, has compiled a 48 and 32 regular season record and has won one division title. In the playoffs, McCarthy is 4-2 and is coaching his first Super Bowl with the Packers.
McCarthy is known as an offensive guru and has helped develop Aaron Rodgers into one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
This season his defense took a turn in the positive direction as he continued to assemble one of the best defensive coaching staffs in the league.
McCarthy will have to push the right buttons and manage his team correctly this week as only two Packers have experienced playing in a Super Bowl.
That will not be a problem for Mike Tomlin, who is making his second trip to the Super Bowl in his four years with Pittsburgh.
Tomlin has won three division titles as a part of his 43 and 21 regular season record and is 5-1 in the playoffs, with his only loss coming in his first season as Steelers coach.
In his brief career, Tomlin has quickly established himself as one of the best coaches in the NFL and could further establish his legacy with a second Super Bowl title. He is already the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl, at age 36.
When asked to list the top quarterbacks in the league, the responses will lead off with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. After winning his first Super Bowl last season, Drew Brees then entered the equation.
Now, with another outstanding postseason under his belt, Aaron Rodgers is ready to join that elite company.
Rodgers threw for nearly 4,000 yards this season with 28 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions while completing 65.7 percent of his passes.
In the playoffs, Rodgers has 790 yards and six touchdowns to only two interceptions and has completed 70 percent of his passes.
What makes Rodgers so dangerous is he can be as accurate as a quarterback like Brady and can make plays on the ground, combining for 409 yards between the regular season and playoffs.
While Rodgers is on the verge of becoming an elite quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger and his two Super Bowl rings is already there.
Roethlisberger threw for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns in 12 games this season and only had five interceptions.
The playoff numbers haven’t been so pretty, throwing for only an average of 179.5 yards per game with two touchdowns and two interceptions as well as multiple fumbles.
However, pretty is not the way Roethlisberger gets things done on the field. He can struggle all game but then make the play when needed with his arm or his feet.
Roethlisberger will also have to play behind a makeshift offensive line. No problem there, he thrives off of contact.
It is the ‘it’ factor that Roethlisberger has that separates him from other quarterbacks in this league. With already one game-winning Super Bowl drive in his past, there is no doubt Roethlisberger could have another one in him. His leadership abilities and will to win are second to none.
Running Back: Pittsburgh
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Push
Offensive Line: Green Bay
Defensive Line: Pittsburgh
Defensive Backs: Green Bay
Special Teams: Green Bay
Final Tally: Pittsburgh 5, Green Bay 3, Push 1
Green Bay has an outstanding offense with plenty of playmakers and an outstanding quarterback and an up-and-coming defense to match.
Pittsburgh is a veteran laden team that has won with their defense and with Roethlisberger making big plays when he needs to.
But now we are in the Super Bowl where the winner takes all.
With billions of people watching worldwide, this is more than a game. Legends are made and hearts are broken. This is what each team set out for this past July and in just 60 more minutes of game action it will all be over.
This main event of the NFL season is an outstanding one. Two of the most traditional franchises will look to add to their rich history while the two quarterbacks look to build upon their legacies.
Ring the bell and let’s get it started!
Who has the edge?
- Roethlisberger or Rodgers?
- Tomlin or McCarthy?
- Chuck Noll or Vince Lombardi?
- Terry Bradshaw or Bart Starr?
- Rooney Family or Fan Ownership?
- Black and Gold or Green and Gold?
- Steelers-Ravens or Packers-Bears?
- AFC North or NFC North?
- Heinz Field or Lambeau Field?
- Vacation to Pittsburgh or Green Bay?
- Watch the Super Bowl in Pittsburgh or Green Bay?
- Steelers’ fans or Packers fans?
- More fans at the Super Bowl: Steelers or Packers?
- Terrible Towels or Cheese Heads?
- Primanti’s sandwich or Bratwursts?
- Super Bowl Winner: Steelers or Packers?
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