Super Bowl XLV: Who Holds the Edge Between Pittsburgh and Green Bay?
On Sunday, we will have a new Super Bowl champion. After months of hard work, this is what it all comes down to.
Players have trained all year for their chance to shine in the Super Bowl. Only two teams remain in Pittsburgh and Green Bay. The team of the 1960s versus the team of the 1970s.
Titletown vs. Super Bowl Town. This is an NFL fan's dream matchup.
Green Bay went 10-6 in the regular season. After seeing 15 players end up on injured reserve, they had to win their final two regular season games just to make the playoffs.
The Packers travelled to Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago en route to Super Bowl XLV.
Pittsburgh went 12-4 and earned the AFC's number two seed. They won the AFC North and got a bye, but did have to face Baltimore for a third time during the playoffs.
The Steelers beat Baltimore and the New York Jets, both at home, on their way to Dallas.
After months of training, pre-season games, regular season games, and playoffs, these two teams will duke it out one last time. This is for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Who holds the edge? Let's take a look.
Green Bay Rushing Vs. Pittsburgh Rush Defense
Ryan Grant, a consistent 1,000 yard rusher for the Packers went down in Week 1 with an ankle injury. During the regular season, Green Bay has played rush-by-committee.
Brandon Jackson and James Starks have done an admirable job to get the Packers some rushing yards. During the regular season, they were only 18th in rushing offense, averaging just over 100 yards per game.
During the playoffs, they have really picked up some steam. The rushing offense is averaging 118 yards on the ground with four touchdowns and two fumbles.
On the other side, you have the Steelers with a vicious defensive line. Led by Casey Hampton, Ziggy Hood, and Brett Keisel, they ranked first in rushing defense during the regular season.
The Steelers gave up less than 63 rushing yards per game and only five rushing touchdowns. They get a lot of defensive support from their linebackers. Have you met James Harrison?
Green Bay Passing Vs. Pittsburgh Pass Defense
With your best rusher going down, you need to rely on your passing game. That is what the Packers did all season long. Aaron Rodgers suffered a little bit with two concussions.
Despite missing one game plus a few quarters, Rodgers had almost 4,000 passing yards on the season. He had 28 touchdowns, threw 11 interceptions, and was sacked 31 times (far below last year's number).
During the playoffs, the Packers are averaging 251 passing yards with six touchdowns in three games.
The hardest part to defend with Rodgers is the receivers. Which one do you guard? Rodgers throws all over the place to Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Brett Swain, Andrew Quarless, and Donald Lee. He has so many weapons to use.
On defense, the Steelers boast the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Troy Polamalu. Despite missing two games, he still had one sack, seven interceptions, and an interception return for a touchdown.
The Steelers had the 12th-ranked passing defense in the regular season. They gave up over 214 yards per game and 15 touchdowns, but had 21 interceptions.
During the playoffs, they have only given up 155 passing yards per game, three touchdowns, and have one interception.
Green Bay Offense Vs. Pittsburgh Defense
Green Bay had the eighth-ranked total offense in the regular season, but they have picked up steam in the playoffs.
They averaged only 100 rushing yards during the regular season, but now average 118. In the air, the Packers averaged almost 258 yards during the regular season, and now average 251.
The Packers scored less than 20 points per game before the playoffs, but 30 during the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers has finally settled in to a rhythm with his receivers.
Although they do not average more than during the regular season, the passing offense looks dangerous. Rodgers is completing 71 percent of his passes versus less than 66 percent during the regular season.
On the flip side, the Pittsburgh defense knows how to play in the playoffs. They ranked first in both rushing defense and scoring defense during the regular season. They have not let up.
Pittsburgh is giving up less than 53 rushing yards per game and only four total touchdowns, passing or rushing. They gave up less than 15 points per game, but have given up an average of 21 in the playoffs.
Let's not forget they feature Troy Polamalu, who won Defensive Player of the Year, and James Harrison, who arguably could have won the award. This is a strength versus strength matchup.
Pittsburgh Rushing Vs. Green Bay Rush Defense
Rashard Mendenhall has been a spark plug for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had over 1,200 rushing yards this season with 13 touchdowns. Mendenhall also knows how to hang on to the football, as he only had two fumbles all season.
During the playoffs, Mendenhall is second in stats behind James Starks of the Packers. He averages just under 84 yards per game with three touchdowns.
The Steelers also have a quarterback with the ability to run in Ben Roethlisberger. He may not be the fastest guy on the field, but he is a force to take down.
On the defensive side of the ball, Green Bay plays a similar 3-4 defense that Pittsburgh does. They have had some success in the rush defense.
Led by B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins, and Ryan Pickett, the rushing defense is doing better during the playoffs than the regular season. They gave up almost 115 rushing yards per game, but have dropped that number down to less than 70.
This is partly due to the fact that they were ahead in the games, so the other teams did not have as many attempts.
Pittsburgh Passing Vs. Green Bay Pass Defense
Ben Roethlisberger missed four games this season, but his backups did well in his place. With a running game as solid as Pittsburgh has, they do not need to use the passing game as much as other teams.
Roethlisberger still threw for 3,200 yards. He was efficient during the regular season with 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The offensive line did give up 32 sacks, so these two teams have pretty similar lines.
On defense, Roethlisberger will have to try to get it past Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. Woodson is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. He only had two interceptions, but had 15 passes defensed and forced five fumbles.
Williams has been stellar during the playoffs. He has three interceptions and three passes defensed, including one for a touchdown.
Besides Williams and Woodson, Pittsburgh has to deal with Sam Shields who had an interception to seal the Packers' NFC championship.
Pittsburgh Offense Vs. Green Bay Defense
Pittsburgh plays a smash-mouth style of offense. They do not have amazing numbers or a majority of huge plays. They methodically go down the field, have long drives, and prefer the rush over the pass.
They have been relying more on the run than the pass in the playoffs. Some of that could also be due to the weather and the fact they were ahead more than behind.
The Steelers averaged over 118 rush yards, but less than 157 pass yards during the playoffs. They have scored four rushing touchdowns to two passing touchdowns. The Steelers offensive line has also given up eight sacks.
Look for Green Bay to rush the line. Like the Steelers, the Packers blitz but you do not know where it comes from. All of the sudden, you have Clay Matthews or Charles Woodson in your face.
Roethlisberger can move around enough to avoid some of the rush, but the Packers will get to him. They can also get him to make mistakes. Against the Packers' secondary, he could run in to some problems.
The Green Bay defense is rolling right now. They have only given up six total touchdowns in three postseason games. They have six interceptions, including two for touchdowns. The Packers also have 10 sacks.
Edge: Packers (only because of their momentum right now)
Who Will Win?
A lot of people are predicting crazy scores for this game. Each fanbase says they will win by 14-plus points. Neither team will blow the other out.
These teams are very similar. They both have great scoring defenses. Green Bay is strong in their passing defense, while the Steelers are strong in their rushing defense.
On the offensive side of the ball, Green Bay is stronger in the passing game than running game, while Pittsburgh is stronger in the running game than passing game.
This game will come down to a last-minute defensive stand or last-minute offensive drive. In the end, I think Green Bay will win.
The Steelers have the experience, but the Packers have the determination. They have been told for six weeks that they will go home on Sunday. People have doubted the Packers all season with all the injuries, but they have persevered.
In the end, the Packers will find a way to slow Mendenhall down and get to Roethlisberger. Their defense will have one more huge play than the Steelers.
Aaron Rodgers will finally get the monkey off his back. He will make a few mistakes, but also have some huge plays to Jennings. I also think Driver will have a huge game.
Packers 24, Steelers 20
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