Green Bay's play over the past few weeks has been inspiring, to say the least. The offense has started strong while the defense has finished strong. Super Bowl Sunday, however, brings the first postseason opponent that Green Bay did not face during the regular season this year: Pittsburgh.
Why is this a big deal? Because Pittsburgh is a different type of beast. Its defense ranked No. 1 in almost every statistical category, while its rushing offense ranked third. Here are three main threats to Green Bay's fourth Super Bowl title.
Big Ben. QB Ben Roethlisberger stands six feet, five inches tall, weighs 241 pounds—easily bigger than any QB Green Bay has faced this postseason. Limiting him may prove to be quite a challenge, as his strength and mobility allow him to extend plays by breaking tackles and rolling out.
As seen in the AFC Championship game, Roethlisberger can hurt a defense by rolling to his right and extending plays. The longer Green Bay's defense has to cover Pittsburgh's young, quick receivers, the more likely Big Ben is to convert a key play. Green Bay's defense needs to make sure that when it hits Roethlisberger, it wraps him up and prevent him from making plays with his legs.
If he gets away, the defense needs to force him to his left, where Roethlisberger loses accuracy.
The 3-4. Pittsburgh's top-ranked rush defense allowed only 62.8 yards per game during the regular season (52.5 in the postseason). Even with the late emergence of RB James Starks, Green Bay will have difficulty moving the ball on the ground, which will play a big part in 3rd-and-short situations.
Safety Troy Polamalu will pose his typical threat on defense by blitzing, covering and tackling all over the field. QB Aaron Rodgers will need to review extra tape this week on Polamalu's pre-snap actions to predict where the safety will be once the play is in action. Polamalu's strong play is unquestionable, but if Rodgers can take advantage of a risky blitz or undercut, then a big play could swing the momentum in Green Bay's favor very quickly.
Experience. It has been stated all week—most of Pittsburgh's roster has been here before, while almost none of Green Bay's has. Pittsburgh's players have had the spotlight and constant media attention leading up to the Super Bowl. Green Bay, on the other hand, is taking it all in for the first time. With the rest of the league not providing fodder for the media, every move is overly watched and scrutinized.
For example, Green Bay has had two instances so far of inactive players using Twitter to voice their displeasure, both of which became front page stories. The mental exhaustion provided by having to deal with such distractions can take a toll if Green Bay does not prepare correctly. The players, active and inactive, need to support each other this week in order to achieve their goal of a Super Bowl win.
Simply stated, Green Bay needs to make sure tackles on defense, and open up the field on offense. Their wide receiver depth will play a large part in any offensive success. Forcing Polamalu out of the box by respecting the pass will open up opportunities for the offense to get moving on the ground. This, in turn, allows Green Bay to open up the pass again with play-action later in the game.
Momentum will play a large part on Sunday. With two of the best defenses in the league playing, turnovers will be an important game-changer. All Green Bay needs to do is pull up footage of James Harrison's Super Bowl XLIII interception return to realize how much a 14-point swing hurts.