It sounds cliché, but this year’s Super Bowl match-up is one of the best in recent memory.
Pittsburgh and Green Bay have some striking similarities. Hard-nosed defense, stellar quarterback play, and playoff success are key components to their rich NFL traditions.
There is certainly no shortage of those aspects in this game.
With two weeks to analyze every single detail of the biggest championship game in professional sports the question on everybody’s mind is simple: Who will walk away champions?
2010 has been a wild year in the NFL but there’s no doubt that these are two of the league’s best playing on Sunday. Without further ado, here are five reasons why Pittsburgh will win Super Bowl XLV
Let me start by saying that these are not your father’s Steelers. They are a pass first team that utilizes speedy, young receivers like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.
But the reason their passing game is so effective is because teams have to respect Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall has emerged as one of the game’s best power backs. Despite playing with a porous offensive line Mendenhall plowed his way to seventh in the league in rushing (1,273 yards) and second in rushing TDs (13).
Mendenhall was solid in the regular season but he’s come on strong for Pittsburgh in the clutch this postseason as well.
He scored the go-ahead touchdown against Baltimore and had no problem running over the Jets' third-ranked rushing defense for 127 yards and 1 TD in the AFC Championship.
Green Bay’s defense relies heavily on teams abandoning the running game and throwing against their league-best secondary.
If Pittsburgh can get a good balance with Mendenhall and force Dom Capers to bring extra players into the box that will give Pittsburgh’s offense the advantage throughout the game.
On the surface, Green Bay’s 3-3 record this year against teams with the 3-4 defense does not seem like a big deal but there’s a lot more to the story.
Two of those wins were blowouts against the 49ers and Cowboys who ranked 13th and 23rd in overall defense respectively. The Cowboys game on Sunday Night Football was one of the most pathetic performances in a long time and goes beyond playing poor defense.
When they played against teams with relevant Pro-Bowlers on defense things did not go well for the Packers and more specifically for QB Aaron Rodgers.
In back-to-back overtime losses against Washington and Miami earlier in the year Rodgers posted a 80.2 quarterback rating and a below average 57% completion.
Even in a win over the New York Jets on the road, the Packers failed to score a touchdown and Rodgers was a miserable 15/34 for 170 yards.
Pittsburgh has arguably the best front-seven in football. They are an imposing challenge for any team and no one runs the 3-4 better than the Steelers.
It has to concern Green Bay that their star quarterback’s worst games this year have come against the 3-4.
While Green Bay is playing better than they were earlier in the season, their offense is going to have to play much better than they have been playing against 3-4 schemes.
Packer fans know that the biggest bone to pick with head coach Mike McCarthy is his predictable play calling, especially at the end of games. His defensive counterpart is only the mastermind behind the confusing zone-blitzing scheme that terrorizes NFL opponents, Hall-of-Famer Dick LeBeau.
The man-behind-the-curtain in the Blitzburgh of Oz is anything but predictable. You don’t have to watch a Steelers' game for long to notice that his players are well schooled, perfect fits in his system.
McCarthy is a disciple of the West-Coast offensive coaching tree and the Packers use that offense to near-perfection at times. But a main reason why Green Bay struggles against the 3-4 may stem from McCarthy’s poor ability to finish games.
In two of the Packers’ playoff wins this year they had a chance to close out the game with a first down but failed to do so because defenses knew exactly what to expect.
That’s not something that you want Dick LeBeau to have knowledge of. Both teams will have two weeks to study each other on film but when the game is on the line the coach who adjusts the best will likely win the game.
McCarthy will have to call the game of his life if he wants to outsmart the best defensive coordinator in the game. LeBeau’s knowledge is an undeniable advantage for Pittsburgh.
The only people that scoff at the idea that experience does not matter are ones that do not have it yet.
The stat is simple but telling. There are 25 current Steelers that have played in the Super Bowl, 15 are starters. The Packers have just 2 players with any Super Bowl experience.
The Steelers are accustomed to the overwhelming media coverage and hype of the game. They understand the magnitude of the game without getting worked up about it.
Although, Green Bay enters this game riding a five-game winning streak and some tremendous confidence nothing can prepare someone for the Super Bowl until they experience it for themselves.
Packers are a young team that feeds off the big-play. It will be a lot easier for them to be in awe of the Super Bowl and lose sight of what they are there for. They don’t have a lot of veterans to lean on when times get tough.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has an even-keel head coach in Mike Tomlin and great veteran leadership on both sides of the ball.
Their “next-man up” mantra has kept them calm even when they were forced to go into games without some of their star players (Polamalu, Roethlisberger).
Teams have won the Super Bowl without being there frequently but it absolutely benefits the Steelers that they have been there and done that. Just another aspect of the game that Green Bay won’t have.
Despite his massive reputation hit this offseason, Ben Roethlisberger’s on-field play has been a key cog in Pittsburgh’s success once again in 2010.
It certainly has been an interesting year for Roethlisberger. He was suspended for four games to start the year and had to face the intense scrutiny in the court of public opinion for the entire season.
That being said, is there a better quarterback in the clutch than Roethlisberger right now? He runs an offensive that utilizes his ability to scramble and make throws outside the pocket.
He’s the winningest quarterback in playoff history, responsible for one of the biggest throws in NFL history to Santonio Holmes to win Super Bowl XLIII.
Green Bay has some great pass rushers, but Roethlisberger is the best quarterback in the NFL against the blitz. He has thwarted the stellar blitzing of New York and Baltimore in the playoffs.
He played an entire game with a broken nose but still managed to throw the game winning touchdown against Baltimore on Sunday Night Football earlier this year.
Big Ben is at his best with the game on the line. Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback well on his way to elite status, but he does not have two Super Bowl rings like Ben does.
These teams are very evenly matched but this is a quarterback driven league. Roethlisberger can make all the throws and has an uncanny ability to win.