The Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Green Bay Packers. It is a dream matchup between two of the NFL’s most popular and traditional teams in its most glitzy stadium to decide the champion of the league.
Ben Roethlisberger versus Aaron Rodgers. Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks who can make plays in the pocket or on the run should provide plenty of offensive fireworks.
Dick LeBeau versus Dom Capers. These two both helped developed the Steelers defense with Bill Cowher back in 1992 now run a couple of the best defenses in the league. The chess match will be tremendous.
Mike Tomlin versus Mike McCarthy. One the Pittsburgh coach, the other a Pittsburgh guy. Both are outstanding young coaches with Tomlin trying to win his second Super Bowl while McCarthy is looking for his first.
The story lines are a plenty but thankfully all of the talk is nearing an end and game time is almost here.
Only one team will come out on top, adding to their proud tradition Sunday night, but neither will have anything to be ashamed of.
For Pittsburgh though, they would like nothing more than to have their season which began with Dick LeBeau being enshrined into the Hall of Fame and Ben Roethlisberger suspended and season filled with injured players, such as Aaron Smith, end in a Super Bowl title.
Here is how the Steelers can climb the “Stairway to Seven.”
Clay Matthews didn’t finish second place in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award for no reason. He established himself as an elite linebacker this season and has become a feared defender.
With 13.5 sacks on the season, Matthews pass rush against a shuffled Pittsburgh offensive line will create plenty of opportunities for Green Bay’s defense to get to Ben Roethlisberger.
Matthews has been just as dangerous in the playoffs, picking up 3.5 sacks in three games.
Flozell Adams will be the primary match up against Matthews and could be at a disadvantage due to the athleticism of the Packers linebacker.
Dom Capers has also moved Matthews around which could cause confusion in the Steelers' blocking schemes, particularly if Maurkice Pouncey does not play.
Pittsburgh used the three tight end set for max protection in the AFC Championship game, and this could be employed again against a very good Green Bay defense. Another benefit of the set is that the Steelers can run or pass out of it effectively.
Heath Miller will be a key in isolating Matthews with his blocking abilities or the Steelers can utilize Miller in the passing game to try to force Matthews into coverage.
If Pittsburgh can keep Matthews off the stat sheet, they will have success on offense.
There is not a hotter quarterback in the league right now than Aaron Rodgers.
Officially out of Brett Favre’s shadow, Rodgers is trying to win his first Super Bowl which would propel him to the elite group of quarterbacks, joining Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Roethlisberger.
Already in the playoffs, Rodgers has thrown for 790 yards and six touchdowns. However, Chicago had success against Rodgers, holding him to 244 yards and no touchdowns. They also intercepted him twice.
The Steelers can take a lot from the Bears game plan to shut down Rodgers.
Dick LeBeau will have to decide whether to sit back in coverage and depend on his secondary to shut down the Packers receivers or to pressure Rodgers, where he can move outside the pocket and make plays on the run.
If James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are able to get to Rodgers, whether it is a sack or just knocking him down, he may become gun-shy. As good as he is Rodgers is not like Roethlisberger who thrives on contact.
Another option is to get Troy Polamalu involved near the line. The past two games he has been sitting back in coverage and rarely played near the line.
Polamalu can provide confusion for the Packers pre-snap calls as he is capable of rushing the passer or immediately dropping back into coverage. His instincts are second to none and Green Bay has not seen a player like him this season.
In fact, the Packers did not see him last year. They faced the Steelers with Tyrone Carter starting for Polamalu.
With a limited running game, Rodgers will have to have an outstanding game to bring home the championship. If he doesn’t, odds are the Steelers win.
The last key is simple, the Steelers just need to play their game on Sunday.
Pittsburgh is stacked with outstanding players who have Super Bowl experience.
Offensively, the Steelers must play mistake free football while controlling the clock with Rashard Mendenhall running the ball. Sustained drives must be converted for touchdowns so that they not only keep Green Bay’s offense off the field, but maximize their offensive production.
The most important offensive player, obviously, is Roethlisberger. He already has one game-winning Super Bowl touchdown drive and his poise will be key in directing his young receiving corps. Expect him to rely on veterans Hines Ward and Heath Miller.
On defense the Steelers will have to first and foremost shut down the run with their stout defensive line led by Casey Hampton.
Making Green Bay one-dimensional will allow Harrison and Woodley to get after the quarterback. Expect LeBeau to mix in corner blitz as well as they have been successful all season, including an Ike Taylor blitz against the Jets that forced a Mark Sanchez fumble which was returned by William Gay for a touchdown.
Lastly, the defense must keep everything in front of them and not get beat by the big play. Rodgers is an outstanding quarterback and the Packers have a ton of weapons for him to use. One big play could decide the game.
Ben Roethlisberger is about one thing and one thing only: winning Super Bowls. He has his chance to win a third on Sunday, placing him in elite company.
Though he is not the best quarterback statistically, he lives for the big moments and those moments occur in the fourth quarter.
If the game is close, Roethlisberger will want the ball in his hands because he thrives in those situations.
There is nothing more that he would like than to win the Super Bowl while earning the MVP award as well.
James Harrison finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting but is the most important defender on the field Sunday.
Already with the greatest play in Super Bowl history when he returned a Kurt Warner interception 100 yards for a touchdown as the first half expired in Super Bowl XLIII, Harrison would like to add to his legacy in the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh’s defense will have to disrupt Rodgers passing rhythm, and Harrison will be an important factor in that.
With Woodley matched up against rookie Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay may shift extra protection to his side. If Harrison is able to go against Chad Clifton in a one-on-one matchup he could have a big game.
- Pittsburgh is playing in its record-tying eighth Super Bowl. Green Bay is in its fifth.
- The Steelers have won a record six Super Bowl titles.
- Sunday will mark the third Super Bowl that the Steelers have played in in the past six years.
- Brett Keisel credited his beard for the Steelers making the Super Bowl.
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