You will sit down on Sunday with a bag of Tostitos and Miller Lite to watch what might be the final NFL game for a long time.
When Jerry Jones is popping off about the league being able to play a 22-game season, the potential of a prolonged lockout is suffocating.
Nonetheless, there is one last football game to be played and what a game it should be.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS VS. GREEN BAY PACKERS @ 6:29PM EST – FOX
When Robert DeNiro sat across from Al Pacino in Heat during their tremendous coffee shop scene, it symbolized two things based off of their characters:
- Neither were effective face-to-face closers in the film. Pacino tried to build up the drama too much. Meanwhile, DeNiro should have just shot him when he was first approached on the side of the road.
- Both were slightly past their primes but still relatively effectively.
While number two holds no merit in this discussion, point one rings true for me when examining this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Green Bay’s high-powered offense is led by one of the league’s brightest young stars at quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who is armed with a fleet of receivers that will surely enjoy the fast track at Cowboys Stadium.
Yet, the Packers are handicapped by their inability to move the sticks on the ground in tight games (see Bears/Eagles playoff games).
The Packers led by double figures at one point in both games but interceptions by Tramon Williams versus Philly and Sam Shields against Chicago helped save Green Bay’s playoff run.
Conversely, Pittsburgh, who made its bread as an organization on the running game, now will put its Super Bowl hopes on the shoulders of the man they call Big Ben.
Out of the game’s two starting running backs, Rashard Mendenhall is in a far better position to close if needed. The Packers allowed 4.7 yards per rush, which ranked 28th in the league.
However, without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to open holes, running will not be easy.
Even when Pouncey was in the lineup, Pittsburgh’s run blocking unit wasn’t ’93 Cowboys-esque. The Steelers averaged an unspectacular 4.1 yards per carry, which ranked 18th in the league during 2010.
Alas, trying to play keep away when this game is likely to be close could be a paramount issue in Sunday’s game.
When either team gets a chance to close, they better do it. One never knows when or if they’ll ever return to Super Sunday.
Just ask Dan Marino.
Green Bay X-Factor: Attack of the Four Horsemen
We know a couple of things about Dick LeBeau’s Pittsburgh defense:
- They struggle a bit versus spread offenses (see November’s New England game for further evidence).
- They murder the opposing team’s running game.
Let’s work backwards with this exercise.
Green Bay will labor to manufacture a run game versus Pittsburgh with James Starks.
The Steelers ranked number one in yards allowed (1,004), yards per carry (3.0), and rushing touchdowns allowed (5).
After lighting up Philly for 123 yards in the NFC Wild Card round, Starks rushed for 140 yards total over his next two games versus Atlanta and Chicago.
Thus, Starks and the phrase “I’m going to Disney World” are not likely to be mentioned in the same breath.
Now, here comes the most obvious statement of the week:
Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s passing game must be productive for the Packers to win.
During Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XLIII, Kurt Warner tagged the Steelers for 377 yards and three touchdown passes.
Arizona’s top three wide receivers (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston) combined for 21 receptions for 242 yards.
When Green Bay met Pittsburgh during the 2009 season, their top four receivers totaled 14 receptions for 301 yards and two touchdowns.
What does this all mean?
The obvious mode of attack for Green Bay is to spread out Pittsburgh’s defense and pick away with quick slants, eventually building towards eating up huge chunks of yardage on throws down the field.
It worked for Tom Brady and New England in Week 10 in a 39-26 victory. Brady threw for 350 yards and three scores.
Green Bay is armed with four solid receivers, who have enjoyed moments during the Pack’s postseason run.
Greg Jennings and Donald Driver (if healthy) will obviously be key figures in the passing attack. Yet, it’s Jordy Nelson and James Jones that could tip the balance of power in favor of Green Bay.
All four receivers have receiving longs of at least 61 yards on the season. If they get loose in space, look out.
Rodgers will assuredly be aware of Troy Polamalu’s presence but the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year can’t defend everyone.
Pittsburgh X-Factor: Woodley’s Woodshed
Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley has 1o sacks in six playoff games and had two in each of his first four postseason games.
When Green Bay’s offense spreads out Pittsburgh, that will leave them somewhat vulnerable to Pittsburgh’s pass rush.
When Woodley is on the field, the Packers must account for him and make sure he is not a constant pain.
That applies to James Harrison as well. He dominated the Ravens with three sacks during the AFC Divisional round.
Woodley and Harrison’s mission is pretty similar to what the Green Bay defense must accomplish.
Pressure must reach the quarterback and then, the defense must successfully finish the play.
Roethlisberger and Rodgers are both adept at alluding on coming traffic to make plays with their legs or arm.
Honestly, Rodgers is probably Green Bay’s most reliable rushing threat on Sunday.
Harrison and Woodley can’t let him get loose. His runs will extend drives and potentially lead to scores.
As they have done so many times in the playoffs, Pittsburgh’s outside linebackers must put pressure on the quarterback or face the consequences.
SUMMARY: I think the Packers will catch hell trying to win a tight game in the teens or low 20s versus Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger is very good in the fourth quarter and Green Bay’s running game is not.
To put a basketball spin on this, the Packers need to turn into the ’87 Showtime Lakers.
In other words, make the game as fast-paced as possible. If Pittsburgh turns this one into one of those Steeler bloodbaths, Green Bay will struggle to win.
Ultimately, I think the Packers have the best player (Rodgers) and a very good defense that can generate a little heat of its own.
The mix of Pittsburgh’s offensive line issues and Green Bay’s spread ’em out passing game is just enough to give the Packers an edge.
PREDICTION: PACKERS 34, STEELERS 27
Categories: green bay packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XLV
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