Pittsburgh Steelers: Five Overlooked Potential Heroes in Super Bowl XLV
Troy Polamalu. Ben Roethlisberger. Rashard Mendenhall. Lamarr Woodley. James Harrison. Hines Ward.
These players are all very familiar names wearing the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they will play their usual roles for the Steelers on February 6th in Dallas Stadium.
However, in a game of epic proportions between two highly talented football teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Steelers, it will not be the star players who determine the outcome of Super Bowl XLV. David Tyree made the catch to knock off the New England Patriots in 2008. Tracy Porter did the unthinkable by intercepting Peyton Manning to pave the way for the New Orleans Saints to hoist the Lombardi Trophy last season. And you can bet someone will find their way into the spotlight before Super Bowl XLV has concluded.
The game will come down to a role player, a rookie, or a player that has simply not been given a chance to maximize his potential.
Here are five players for the Steelers who could tip the scales in their favor:
Second year defensive end Ziggy Hood has continued to progress as the weeks go by for the Steelers. Since taking over for veteran space-eater Aaron Smith in week nine after Smith went down with a torn triceps, Hood has accumulated 20 tackles and three sacks.
A defensive tackle for the Missouri Tigers in college, Hood seemed to take some time to adjust to his new position in the NFL. As he continues to progress, he has shown his strength from playing on the interior at the collegiate level but also the speed to give opposing lineman problems at times.
Hood needs to play an important role in this game for the Steelers to come away with a victory. Not only does he need to take up space, eat double teams and allow Lamarr Woodley to make the plays that Steeler fans have become accustomed to seeing, he also needs to make sure Aaron Rodgers does not break containment and hurt the Steelers on the ground. If Rodgers does break containment, the onus will fall on a player like Hood to disengage from his block and run Rodgers down before he makes a big play happen, like we have become used to seeing from Rodgers. If Hood and the Steelers cannot do this it could be a long day for Ike Taylor and Co., trying to cover a very deep stable of Packer receivers.
The scene should be familiar for Flozell Adams. A twelve-year veteran for the Dallas Cowboys, five of which were Pro Bowl seasons, Adams now returns to Dallas in his thirteenth season as a member of the Steelers.
Adams will have the major responsibility of shutting down Clay Matthews in Super Bowl XLV, and therefore could have a bigger impact than any skill player fans may see on February 6th.
Matthews had a big season, compiling 14 total sacks and finishing two votes behind the Steelers' Polamalu for Defensive Player of the Year, and it will now be Adams' job to make sure Roethlisberger will not have to see Matthews more than he wants too.
Adams has to be able to keep Matthews to the outside and use his strength to push Matthews away from the pocket. Dom Capers likes to move Matthews around on the field, but if Adams cannot control his side, Capers will continue to attack the right side.
Adams can have a huge impact on this game, one that will not be seen on the box score, but could be as vital as any Roethlisberger pass or Mendenhall run.
A sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan this past NFL Draft, Antonio Brown has found a place in the Steelers' receiving corps. Brown has shown to be shifty in the open field, have good hands when the ball is thrown to him and has also turned into a dangerous cog in the kick return game for the Steelers.
All of these traits still do not hit on why Brown is on this list. Brown has proven to be a clutch player down the stretch in the playoffs with his 48-yard catch to setup the go-ahead score against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round, and also his game-sealing third down grab in the AFC championship game against the New York Jets.
A number or statistic cannot be put on the clutch intangible.
Brown will likely be matchup with either Sam Shields or Pat Lee on the inside while Mike Wallace and Hines Ward attempt to find breathing room against the likes of Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams.
With the high skill level of Woodson and Williams on the outside for Green Bay, look for Antonio Brown or fellow rookie Emmanuel Sanders to have their share of chances to make a play for the Steelers. Whether it be one huge catch down the stretch, as Brown has already proven to be capable of, or an overall breakout game, you can bet Brown will have a chance to be a hero yet again in Super Bowl XLV.
Ryan Clark is frequently overlooked because he plays next to one of the best defensive players in the NFL today, Polamalu, but Clark is not to be overlooked in Super Bowl XLV or for any other game.
Clark accumulated 90 tackles from his safety position to go along with two interceptions. While the two interceptions are not an eye-popping statistic, the 90 tackles shows why Clark is known as a punishing hitter.
Donald Driver loves to work the middle of the field, along with James Jones and rising talent Andrew Quarless. It will be Clark's responsibility to patrol the middle of the field and make Rodgers think twice before dumping the ball to one of his possession targets.
If Clark can find a way to neutralize the middle while allowing Polamalu to roam the field, the Steelers will have success on the defensive side of the ball. If Clark fails, Driver and Co. will have a field day moving the chains and possessing the ball for the Packers.
Doug Legursky has the biggest shoes to fill for either side coming into the February 6th matchup in Dallas. Rookie Maurkice Pouncey will be out of the contest with a high ankle sprain and a bone chip in the same ankle. That means Legursky must lead the charge up front if the Steelers hope to have some semblance of a rushing offense.
Legursky, who saw most of his limited time as a lead blocker out of the backfield in goal line situations, hopes to win the pivotal battle against Packer nose tackle B.J. Raji. Legursky must push Raji off the ball and allow Mendenhall and Isaac Redman to get to the second level of defenders. Doing so will not only allow the Steelers to gain yards, but also possess the ball for long periods of time.
Legursky has the luxury of coming into this game with virtually no expectations from the Steeler faithful. If Legursky struggles up front and allows Raji to disrupt the flow of the run game, fans will shrug it off as an expected occurence. But if Legursky can rise to the occasion on the biggest stage in professional football, everyone will remember his performance that allowed the Steelers to run their way to victory.