Super Bowl XLV Pick? After Further Review

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…

Advantage Push:

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 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

Super Bowl XLV Preview (Part I)

The crowning of an NFL Champion…love it!  It’s time we begin to breakdown this edition of Super Sunday and see if we can have some foresight into who will win the game.  Each team has marched a long desolate road to get here and each is deserving of becoming a world champion.  The question is who will rise to the occasion and who will just miss on their attempt at becoming a world champion.  Today let’s take a look at offensive backfields…

Packers RB: Aaron Rodgers has had some assistance lately with the emergence of James Starks.  Along with Brandon Jackson these two were effective in the first half of the NFC Championship against Chicago. Starks is a bruising back who slashes into the hole yet runs upright which makes me uneasy against a top flight defense.  I’m smelling forced fumbles.   He usually carries the ball in one hand away from his body.  Brandon Jackson may really prove affective on screens in this game to slow down the pass rush.

During these playoffs they have averaged 3.8 yards per carry as a group with Stark’s 70 carries for 263 yards for 3.8yds per carry supplemented by Jackson’s 6 carries for 28 yards respectively. However a closer examination shows that nearly 47 % of Stark’s yards came in the wildcard against the Eagles.  Hmmm, so that means on his last 47 playoff carries he’s rushed for 140 yards or a meager 2.9 yard average.  That’s supposed to get it done against a defense giving up an average of 60 yards per game?  Can they run effectively on James Farrior, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Troy Palamalu (defenisive player of the year), and company?

Steelers RB: Is it me or does Rashard Mendenhall epitomize Pittsburgh football with his running style?  He fits in a way that “Fast” Willie Parker did not in replacing Jerome Bettis.  His pad level is extremely low and he runs with power. Mendenhall is a violent runner who has fleet feet and can make yards on his own if there isn’t a hole.  He’s adept at catching a flare or screen pass and can possibly break a big gain against a nervous tackler early in this game.

Now we do have a greater body of work to go off of with Mendenhall.  A season in which he rushed for 1,279 yards on 324 carries while averaging 3.9 yards per carry. We watched this kid rip off an 80 yard touchdown in a Rose Bowl when his Illinois team was behind and the lights were brightest.  What is often not talked about is his ability to block which is paramount going against Clay Matthews coming off the edge or catching an A.J. Hawk coming up through the middle.

Advantage:  Steelers…big advantage and key to the game.  Don’t forget that Dom Capers, the Packers defensive coordinator spent several years in Blitzburgh drawing up zone blitz schemes.  He knows of the injuries to the Steeler offensive tackles and possibly missing Pouncey at center.  He will come after Big Ben. Rashard Mendenhall may have his coming out party where he’s welcomed into the realm of the best backs in the league period. His running and blitz pickup are vital to the outcome of this game.  The New York Jets were unable to come after Ben Roethlisberger when Mendenhall was running well.

The other half of that equation is; how will the Packers run on a Steelers defense that is allowing about 60 yards a game?  That’s one of the best in league history. Does Green Bay turn the trick? I don’t think so.  They are coming at a defense without speed to get to the corner. They run north and south and that’s right into the teeth of the Steelers D.  Not good…

Packers QB:  Aaron Rodgers has had a field day though much of this year’s playoffs. He had a rough go of it in the second half of the NFC Championship Game, but that was due to the Bears defense playing up to their potential.  His electrifying performance against Atlanta, 31 of 36 for 360 yards with 3TDs will be the signature game of his career.  Well, at least until he wins a Super Bowl game.  His accurate passing from the pocket and on the run is the best seen in the NFL for a long time.  If they would have allowed 4 more defenders on the field for the Falcons I still don’t think they would have slowed him.  Showed he is in the upper echelon of today’s quarterbacks with 3 straight 4,000 yard seasons. Ok, we’re giving him 85 yards….yet I digress.  Here he goes again back indoors for this Super Bowl game where he has produced 42 and 45 points in playoff games for the Packers respectively.

Steelers QB:  Two Super Bowl wins and counting for Ben Roethlisberger one in which he threw the most dramatic touchdown in Super Bowl history.  Big Ben is creeping into the realm of the all time greats in terms of winning playoff games with a 10-2 record.  He plays a different brand of football where it’s from his gut more than X’s and O’s.  I am one reluctant to give way to that sandlot style of play because you can’t base your game on the broken play. Yet there is no substitution for guts when the game is on the line or when you’re alert enough to throw the right pass at the right time.  See the last two passes to close out the Jets two weeks ago or that heave against the Ravens to rookie Antonio Brown for 59 yards on 3rd and 19.  It was a thing of beauty.  He comes alive when defenses start getting nervous near the end of games.  He knows he can take some chances with the Steelers defense behind him.  He did throw for 503 yards and score 37 points on the Packers at the end of the 2009 regular season.  I know that was at Heinz Field yet can he do that again?

Advantage: Packers slightly.  Rodgers is coming in as the hotter quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is still the sly like a fox, do what must be done to get the first down type player he’s been for years.  Rodgers will have to have a game similar to the Falcons game for his Green Bay Packers to pull this off.  He’s indoors and is playing the best football of his career.  What better time than now?

As for Big Ben the game has to get away from the Steelers or the Packers defense will get nervous when the score is 23-20 and he takes the field late in the game.  Aaron Rodgers will have to gun down the Steelers to make the clock tick down because the Packers won’t be able to just run the ball to run time off if they are ahead.  So analyzing the quarterbacks…Rodgers gets a slight advantage.

AFC Championship Recap

Steelers Hammer Jets Early

Heinz Field and the AFC Championship Game where Rex Ryan’s charges came up short for the second year in a row. Well did they come up short or were they beaten?  They were beaten.   The Steelers dominated the game from the very outset with a near ten minute drive to set the tone at the start of the game.  Rashard Mendenhall ran in his accustomed hard nosed fashion and kept the Jets from taking advantage of their injured offensive line.  Speaking of which they fired off the ball and took command of the trenches early taking the fight to the Jets defense.  Mendenhall finished the first half with 17 carries for 95 yards.  When they needed a play, there was ole’ trusty, reliable Roethlisberger.   The Steelers kept their raucous crowd in the game with a dominant first half performance in taking a 24-0 lead.  Then holding off the surging Jets in the end 24-19 to advance to their 8th Super Bowl to face the Green Bay Packers.

Ben Roethlisberger proved why he deserves to be talked about among the best quarterbacks in the game today and creeping into the all time quarterback talk.  He began the game on fire again.  Not from the stat sheet, but when the Steelers needed a play to keep a drive alive, he found a way to extend plays and make the throw that kept the chains going.  The ad-lib option pitch back to Mendenhall is what showcases his greatness.  How alert was that?  It shows he’s aware of where everyone is on the field and this year he’s endured offseason tumult, had to play with a young receiving corp, and now has to be given credit for what he provides his team. His stats read 10 of 19 for 133 yards and 2 interceptions, but he ran for a touchdown and when it counted most he completed passes for the two first downs that allowed the Steelers to run out the clock.  Thats greatness.

When you’re talking football in January, you had better bring your defense.  The Jets brought theirs but they just didn’t have ananswer in the first half.  As mentioned before they did pick off Roethlisberger twice but were pushed off the ball for much of the first half.  Consequently the #1 against the run Steelers defense only allowed 1 rushing yard and kept the Jets from getting into any offensive rhythm.  Then with the Jets trying desperately for points before the half, Ike Taylor’s sack and forced fumble returned for a touchdown by William Gay was the signature play of the game.  Providing the insurmountable 24-3 lead they’d have to protect.  They provided the biggest play of the game when the Jets had trimmed the lead to 24-10.  The Jets, threatening to get back into the game and on their 17th play of the drive couldn’t dent the Steel Curtain on a 4th and 1 from the Steeler 2 yard line.  Tomlinson never made it back to the line of scrimmage.   

The Steelers did give up a safety on the next play but the defense won it on that goal line. The resulting time it took for the Jets to march for the touchdown to make it 24-19 came on a defense that was tired.  It cost the Jets 4:29 of possession time only leaving 3:09 on the clock when the Steelers took the field.  So with a couple key throws by Ben, the Jets were sent home from the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row. They battled valiantly in the second half but again came up short.  They didn’t come up short on their own, the Steelers held them off.  We have a couple weeks to get ready for the Super Bowl in Dallas.  Packers or these resourceful Steelers.  Who do you have?

Thanks for reading…


How does a team go from losing a battle for first place in a division 45-3 to winning an AFC Divisonal Playoff over the New England Patriots 28-21?  Emotion.  Well emotion and tight coverage.  The defense that we were promised between Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis finally showed up.  The coverage was so tight the defenese was able to get to Tom Brady sacking him 5 times and had him uncomfortable and double clutching all night.  A defense missing Kris Jenkins and Jim Leonard hadn’t looked this powerful in many weeks.  They backed up the bravado and talk that had dominated the week leading up to the game. 

Tom Brady couldnt find an open reciever for much of the night and he was getting hit like he had been by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.  The Patriots handicapped their own efforts by beginning the day with Wes Welker on the bench for disciplinary reasons.  This backfired and kept them from establishing a rhythm although they moved the football on their opening drive they struggled in close.  First they forced Brady into an interception by linebacker David Harris.   The lack of a running game came that plagued New England all year showed up at the goal line on the next drive.  They tried to pass into the endzone resulting in an endzone drop by TE Alge Crumpler.  The chance to get their crowd into the game and raise self doubt in the Jets had come and gone.  All of this before we get to New England’s ill advised fake punt which led to a Sanchez to Braylon Edwards to make it 14-3 and an eery blanket of silence cascaded over Gillette Stadium.  More important the self doubt started to permeate that Patriot sideline.

The Jets were highly motivated to make amends for the embarrassing defeat a month ago.  The emotion of disliking your divisional rival.  Rex Ryan and his team turned the tables on the favored Patriots starting with all the trash talk that roped the Patriots into some uncommon ground.  No not this week, go all the way back to when Rex was at the podium and made the declaration that they were going after the Patriots.  That he hadn’t come to New York to “kiss Belichick’s rings” and the barbs didn’t stop there.  Getting under the skin of Bill Belichick is what Rex was trying to do when he said this game was personal about wanting to beat Bill and the Patriots.

With tactical dominance established defensively, the Jet were able to let their offense settle down and get into the game.  Mark Sanchez came of age with a solid performance throwing for 194 yards on 16 of 25 passing and 3 touchdowns. Dare we say he outperformed Tom Brady?  Yes he did and a rushing attack that complemented Sanchez with over 120 yards rushing kept the clock moving.  Once they started to believe as an overall unit the game was effectively over.  The Jets received an emotional pep talk from Dennis Byrd before the game and carried his jersey out to the pregame coin toss.  They channeled that along with wanting to make amends for their embarrassing defeat a month ago.  Add to that the doubting press, and an angry Jet closed ranks and took the field with something to prove.  Did they?? LOL  See you in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship.