Super Bowl XLV Preview (Part II)
Man, I love the roman numerals of the Super Bowl. We’re two days away from the 45th Super Sunday and in the back of my mind I can hear the late Don Meredith when he announced when he was right outside the San Gabriel Mountains and about to bring you the 11th Super Sunday! I wish I had his voice or Dick Enberg’s to start this one off… yet time marches on. So let’s get after the finale of this game.
Are the Steelers on the verge of 3 Super Bowls in 6 years? Does that qualify as a dynasty? I don’t think it qualifies as a dynasty because there wasn’t a back to back win involved. Early Super Bowl era dynasties were winning two in a row to separate themselves from other champions. Then Dallas went 3 of 4 as did the ‘00’s Patriots, which changed the landscape. So who’s going to win??
Steelers Front 7 on Defense: I believe in LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, and James Harrison. This is one of the best linebacking corps ever in the NFL and it’s time to recognize them. When they brought back Larry Foote #50 from his Detroit sabbatical he has helped solidify their goal line defense. Watch Fox #57 along the goal line also. I’d like to see him on the field more instead of Lawrence Timmons. James Farrior has played so well for the Steelers everyone forgets he started as a Bill Parcells New York Jet. He absolutely knocked Shonn Greene’s chinstrap loose with a great hit in the AFC Championship Game. They scrape into running lanes and stonewall runners and pass rush with the best of linebacking corps that I have seen, but what makes this group different is the muscle with which they can stand up to blocking linemen.
Brett Keisel, beard and all, along with Casey Hampton and emerging Zigy Hood are just immovable. They are only allowing 60 yards rushing which is among the best in history near the 2000 Ravens numbers. This is the NFL and if you can’t run you can’t win. If they haven’t been moved in 18 games what makes you think they’ll be moved in the 19th??
Packers Front 7 on Defense: B.J. Raji is coming into his own as a pro player up front but its Cullen Jenkins who has been playing like his brother Kris. The Packers have become stronger against the point of attack when opponents try to run. They still miss the speed of Brady Poppinga, and Nick Barnett but have made up for it from stellar play by Clay Matthews. He has grown into one of the best pass rushers and is taught by one of the best ever in former Steeler Kevin Greene. A.J. Hawk has been a pin to hold down running games and cover tight ends also. Not since Lawrence Taylor has a defense leaned so much on one play making linebacker.
The Packers can be run on somewhat between the tackles and some off tackle. They have proven to be stout during the playoffs but only faced one grade “A” running back in Atlanta’s Michael Turner. The Falcons had some success but the Packers taking a commanding lead took the ball out of his hands. Can they stop Mendenhall? Hmmmmm… Can they slow him? Uh
Advantage Steelers: As the question went unanswered earlier, if you can’t move a defense in 18 games how do you expect to do so in the 19th?? To be run on you have to be pushed off the ball and this defense can’t be moved. After a few penalties and an 18 play drive where they were tired, they stopped the Jets on 4th and goal in the AFC Championship Game. Keep in mind that the Packers began the season unable to protect Aaron Rodgers and they really haven’t in the playoffs. He’s just escaped and run from any spirited danger. He’s not running from Woodley and Harrison.
I see Matthews getting after Big Ben as well but he’s too much of a focal point where the Steelers can gameplan to minimize his effectiveness. A lot like what happened with A.J. Duhe when he was with Miami against the Redskins and make him go through additional blockers. The Packers will also abandon the run first which will allow Woodley, Farrior, and Harrison will collapse Green Bay’s pocket
Steelers Receivers v. Packers Secondary: Mike Wallace came into his own this year and rookie Antonio Brown, are both speed receivers that may sneak deep. At tight end Heath Miller is a sure handed receiver and a good blocker. Hines Ward is one of the reasons the other receivers will get deep by putting lumps on Packer defensive backs and linebackers with his run blocking. He’s also still there to help the Steelers with the possession routes and is a former Super Bowl MVP who is playing his last game. Look for Hines to get Big Ben out of trouble at least 7 times in this game.
Charles Woodson, Sam Shields (The U), and Tramon Williams #38 have been good on the corners all year. Woodson, last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has become one of the best defensive backs in football. When they go to a nickel defense, Woodson will cover Hines Ward or blitz from the slot. Shields and company have smothered receivers in this year’s playoffs. Each had two interception games in this year’s playoffs, Shields in the NFC Championship, and Tremond putting the Falcons away on the last play of the 1st half.
Each group is young and fast…
Packers Receivers v. Steelers Secondary: The Packers receivers are going to get open in this football game. Greg Jennings is on a tear, Donald Driver is a possession receiver with a ton of fight in him, and Jones is a capable big play receiver who can make the big play left in one on one coverage. Will Jones drop the easy pass like he did in the Wildcard v. Philadelphia or will he catch the ball and dominate like he did against Atlanta? They have been getting open with great routes for the last two years for Aaron Rodgers.
This secondary of the Steelers is its weakest link and they are weak on the corner. They bank on superior rush to keep them from being exposed. Ike Taylor, and nickel back William Gay can be taken advantage of. Before the Ravens game in week a stat was put up on NFL.com that they were 22nd against the pass as a secondary. The strength is Ryan Clark and present NFL Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu. Troy’s made timely plays in this season that earned this award outright. He’s the most instinctive player in the NFL. Ryan Clark made the two biggest plays in the AFC Championship game forcing the two third quarter turnovers that allowed Pittsburgh to come from behind.
Advantage Packers slightly…
Pick for the Game: Steelers 27-24. The pass rush will get to Rodgers and the Packers won’t be able to run the ball. Roethlisberger will be the MVP