This Sunday evening, we will all have the pleasure of viewing the 45th edition of the king of professional sports championships, Super Bowl XLV. The game, to be played in the brand new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will pit the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers against the NFC champion Green Bay Packers in a battle for the Lombardi Trophy.
The game can be viewed on Fox and will be commentated by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Pop star Christina Aguilera will sing the National Anthem and hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas will be performing at halftime.
For lesser football fans, the Super Bowl is also known for having the most entertaining commercials of any event throughout the year, which actually attract much of the Super Bowl crowd. For this reason, 30-second advertisements during the Super Bowl cost about $3 million for airtime.
Both teams have a vast history in the Super Bowl. The Lombardi Trophy is named after former Packers head coach Vince Lombardi. Lombardi and his Packers won the first two Super Bowls. The Packers will be making their fifth Super Bowl appearance and hope to win their first since 1996.
The sixth-seeded Packers are the fourth team to ever win three road games to make the Super Bowl. The last two teams to accomplish this feat, the Steelers (2005) and the New York Giants (2007), both won the Super Bowl.
The second-seeded Steelers are making their eighth Super Bowl appearance and their third in six seasons. Pittsburgh owns the NFL record with six championships in the Super Bowl era. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will look to win his third Super Bowl in his seventh year in the NFL.
In December 2009, these two teams played in one of the more entertaining games of last season. At Heinz Field, the Steelers hosted a matchup that featured four lead changes in the fourth quarter. The game ended with a strike from Ben Roethlisberger to rookie receiver Mike Wallace in the end zone with no time left on the clock. The ensuing extra point would give the Steelers the 37-36 victory.
These two teams both had different roads to the Super Bowl. The Steelers clinched a playoff spot in Week 15 after a loss to the New York Jets and were the AFC North champions with a 12-4 record. After a first round bye, Pittsburgh defeated both the Baltimore Ravens and the Jets on their home turf en route to the Super Bowl.
The Packers squeezed into the playoffs as a wild card after winning two elimination games against the Giants and Chicago Bears in the last two weeks of the season. They then traveled to Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago and defeated all three respectively to earn a spot in Super Bowl XLV.
Green Bay battled through injuries all season long. Starting running back Ryan Grant broke his ankle in Week 1 and the Packers were without a solid ground game the entire season. Dangerous tight end Jermichael Finley and veteran linebacker Nick Barnett were also lost for the season, but the Packers made due with what they had.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who, along with all but two Packers, will be making his first Super Bowl appearance, had another fantastic season, and needed to if the Packers were going anywhere this year.
Defensive player of the year runner-up Clay Matthews led the Packers to the second best scoring defense in the NFL, the main reason why they have been able to get through the season without a running game.
The Steelers have also had their fair share of injuries this season. Most of Pittsburgh’s offensive line is different than it was planned to be going into the season, including Max Starks and Willie Colon on injured reserve. Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers' starting rookie center, was badly injured in the AFC Championship game against the Jets and is doubtful to play in Sunday evening’s game.
Somehow through all of this, running back Rashard Mendenhall produced his best season as a pro. Ben Roethlisberger’s mobility and toughness has also kept the Steelers offense rolling even with a depleted line. His ability to keep plays alive may be the biggest reason why the Steelers are in the position they have put themselves in.
Pittsburgh has always been known for their powerhouse defense. Led by defensive player of the year Troy Polamalu, the Steelers produced the top scoring defense in the league, giving up half a point less than the Packers per game. Linebacker James Harrison, who had a very expensive season after being fined multiple times for "illegal hits," was also a top defensive player this season and is one of the most intimidating players in the NFL.
In a game that features the top two scoring defenses in the league, one would expect a low scoring affair with plenty of punts and turnovers. Many matchups between top defenses this season have been higher scoring affairs than expected, so I believe the winning team will need to score at least 24 points.
Both offenses have the ability to move the ball easily against any defense, but both defenses have many takeaways this season. The Packers have proved that they do not need a ground game to win this season, but they will need to stop Mendenhall and the Steelers’ backfield to give themselves the best chance to win.
An interesting matchup to look out for will be when Clay Matthews gets a chance to take down Big Ben, one of the top pass rushers in the league against one of the most evasive passers. I expect this game to be very hard-hitting and to have an incredibly exciting second half. Both teams are deserving, but only one will earn their rings when the night is over.