AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers vs. NFC Champion Green Bay Packers
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington Texas, seats 80,000 for football
Line, Packers favored by 2.5 points, Over- Under 45
The NFL/NFC have won 23 of the 44 Super Bowls….the AFC has won 5 of the last 7….this is the third Super Bowl played in the state of Texas, the first in the Dallas area… Super Bowl VIII was played in Houston at Rice Stadium, a 24-7 Miami victory over the Vikings, Super Bowl XXXVIII was played at Reliant Stadium in Houston, a 32-29 win for the Patriots over the Panthers…Green Bay will be attempting to win their NFL record thirteenth NFL championship, the Steelers are trying for their 7th…the Packers lead the regular season series, 18-14, this will be their first meeting in post season, the series dates back to 1933, the Packers beat the then Pittsburgh Pirates 47-0, in Green Bay, this was Pittsburgh’s first year in the NFL, behind the running of Hall of Famer Clarke Hinkle and Bob Monnett…the Steelers won the last game between them December 20, 2009, 37-36 in Pittsburgh…Ben Roethlisberger threw for the winning score, a 19 yard scoring pass to Mike Wallace, Roethlisberger completed 29-46-for 503 yards and three scores, the single best passing performance of 2009….
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for three scores, passed for 383 yards and had no interceptions…linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. did get to Roethlisberger for 2 sacks that day….this game matches franchises that defined certain decades…the Packers of the 1960’s won 5 championships, including the first 2 Super Bowls… the Steelers of the 1970’s won 4 championships, Super Bowls IX, X, XIII, XIV….these teams have a combined 31 members enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Steelers have 14, the Packers 17….
Of the numerous story lines of this Super Bowls the best from a pure football standpoint is the match up of defensive coordinators, Pittsburgh’s Dick LeBeau and Green Bay’s Dom Capers….they did not create but made the zone blitz what it is today and their match up to me is the story of this game….Capers was the defensive coordinator of the Steelers from 92-94, LeBeau the secondary coach with him, and Marvin Lewis was the linebackers coach…. Capers using Kevin Greene who is now on the defensive staff of the Packers, and Gregg Lloyd, Capers as hybrid linebackers –defensives ends dropped them into coverage created a devastating defense, LeBeau with Rod Woodson in his secondary created coverage schemes and blitz packages to accent Capers’ base scheme…both took their defenses with them into head coaching positions, Capers as coach of the year with second year Panthers in 1996 and Houston Texans, Lebeau with the Bengals….but as both coaches will tell you, you must have the players who can handle the complex schemes, Capers had it with the Panthers as he won coach of the year, he did not have it with the Texans from 02-05, going 18-46, LeBeau tried it with Bengals and was 12-33from 2000-02, every time you see a lineman drop into coverage Sunday you will hear about Capers’ and LeBeau’s scheme, but as both will tell you, you need the players to make it work, it is not the scheme but the talent…for the record the first pure zone blitz was crafted by Bud Carson former Steelers defensive coordinator, he first used it when he became defensive coordinator for one season with the 1982 Baltimore Colts, dropping rookie nose tackle Leo Wisneiwski into coverage, he had no pass rush to speak of, so he tried different coverage schemes….
Steelers, offense, rushing 11th, passing 14th defense, vs. run 1st, vs. pass 12th
Steelers are 6-1 in Super Bowls….head coach Mike Tomlin in his 4th year is 43-21 in the regular season, 5-1 in the post season, including 1-0 in Super Bowls, he is the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl at age thirty six…Roethlisberger has a 10-2 post season record as a starting quarterback, 2-0 in Super Bowls, but both wins were against NFC West teams, he has had the good fortune of playing average at best defenses in his Super Bowls… and could join Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to win at least three Super Bowls… offensive coordinator Bruce Arians while respecting the Packer defense that had 47 sacks, 13.5 by Clay Matthews, will come out throwing in an attempt to see where Capers will have the Packer rush coming from…
Arians knows his offensive line’s weakness is pass blocking, especially if rookie center Maurkice Pouncey is not able to play…. expect to see early crossing patterns to Mike Wallace and Hines Ward and we should see an early shot downfield….Arians does not feel Wallace and Ward can win their match ups against Packer corners Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson but will pass early to see where the running lanes will be…Arians know the Steelers must run to win and that he must keep Roethlisberger protected from the Packer rush….expect a huge dose of Rashard Mendenhall starting by late in the first quarter, he will go after the Packer run defense, which allowed 4.7 yards a carry, would should see Mendenhall and Isaac Redman get carries in the first half, to force the Packer linebackers to respect the run and slow the rush…if they can establish this, Roethlisberger will start throwing again and should get single coverage if they can get Green Bay to bite on play action, but they must get Mendenhall and Redman going by halftime, if not the Packers could feast on Roethlisberger especially if the Packers get a lead, and Pittsburgh will have to rely on him making plays outside the pocket to win,….
If you are looking for a Pittsburgh sleeper, running back Mewelde Moore will catch at least 5 passes, they feel they can beat right outside linebacker Erik Walden in coverage….the Steelers lead the NFL with 48 sacks, Rodgers suffered 38 sacks, 20th in the league…although the Steelers have Troy Polamalu, AP defensive player of the year they know they will not be able to cover Greg Jennings and Donald Driver without pressure on Rodgers, as they always do Pittsburgh will come with varying blitz packages, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, Ryan Clark, and Polamalu will all take their shots at an offensive line that is known for zone blocking, which can be beaten, RT TJ Lang will be the focus early of the Pittsburgh rush…
As always the Steelers feel no one can run on them, they allowed 62.8 yards a carry, almost thirty yards better a game than the second best run defense this year , Chicago….they feel that even though Packer running back James Starks has run well the past several games, the Falcons and Bears are not the Steelers….Pittsburgh’s strategy is simple and is the same every week, stop the run, make the Packers one dimensional, create pressure, not give Jennings and Driver time to get open and force Rodgers into throws he does not want to make….this all sounds good on paper but Rodgers is playing some of the best football any quarterback has ever played coming into a championship game….
Packers, offense rushing 24th, passing 5th, defense vs. run 18th, vs. pass 5th
Packers are 3-1 in Super Bowls….head coach Mike McMcarthy in his fifth season is 48-32 in the regular season, 4-2 in the post season, he will attempt to join Curley Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, and Mike Holmgren as the only Packer coaches to win championships, the first coming in 1929…Aaron Rodger will attempt to be the first quarterback from the University of California to win a Super Bowl, Joe Kapp and Craig Morton were Golden Bears who started Super Bowls but lost all them , Kapp lost Super Bowl IV to the Chiefs while with the Vikings, Morton lost Super V to the Baltimore Colts while with Dallas and lost Super XII to the Cowboys when he started for the Broncos….Rodgers will attempt to join Eddie Kotal, 1929, Arnie Herber, 1930,1931, 1936, 1939, Irv Comp,1944, Bart Starr 1961, 1962, 1965,1966,1967, and Brett Favre 1996, as Packer quarterbacks who have won NFL championships….Rodgers is the best running passing quarterback the NFL has seen since Steve Young, yes better than Michael Vick on his best day…..
Offensive coordinator Mike Philbin and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements were instrumental in drafting the Packer lineman and making sure their strengths would enhance Rodgers talents. This made Favre expendable several years ago….they know that while James Starks rushed for 263 playoff yards, Steeler Nose tackle Casey Hampton will win his matchup against Packer center Scott Wells, even with double team aid from guard Daryn Colledge, the Packers run game with Starks, Brandon Jackson, and Stacy Kuhn will be just a token…, their running backs will be there to pass block and receive, do not expect a Packer runner to gain 50 yards on the ground Sunday….
What the Packers will have Rodgers do though is attempt screen passes all day, they will use the Bill Walsh formula of using short passes as their running game….Jackson should be the workhorse for them coming out of the backfield, he had 43 receptions in 2010, and Kuhn will be used as another offensive lineman…Rodgers has accounted for 99 touchdowns the past three seasons, 14 on the ground counting the 2010 playoffs…. They will use him on waggles, bootlegs, and quarterback draws all as a way to slow the Steelers blitz, they will come all day and they know this, but if they force the Steeler linebackers to react instead of just bull rushing this could will buy more time for Rodgers and boost the Packer staple of their game plan, throwing downfield…. This is where the game will be won or lost, can the Packer receivers, Jennings, Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson who combined for more than 220 receptions be able to get open and run precise routes… the Steelers will not allow Rodgers to make second and third reads, his receivers must win their matchup against Steeler the corners, Bryant McFadden and Ike Taylor…just as the Steelers think no one can run on them, the Packers feel no one can stop their passing….
Dom Capers knows how to attack a quarterback but he also knows that his run defense was ranked 18th in 2010, allowing 4.7 yards a carry and gave up 114.9 yards a game….all the zone blitzing in the world will not stop a great running game and for the Packers to win they have to contain it, the only way to stop it is if they outscore Pittsburgh and force the Steelers to throw but if they can slow it, and keep Mendenhall and Redman to three yards instead of 4 yards on first down, it will at times force Roethlisberger to throw and that is where they want him….not only did they record 47 sacks by blitzing from angles but they also recorded twenty four interceptions…Capers feels that Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams can blanket Wallace and Ward….if Clay Matthews, AJ Hawk, Ryan Pickett, and Cullen Jenkins can keep Roethlisberger in the pocket and bring him down before he can get outside and make plays the Packers feel they can win, it all sounds great on paper….
Both teams will be able to pressure the quarterback, we may see a Super Bowl record of most combined sacks, which is 10 set by the Bears and Patriots in Super Bowl XX and the Packers and Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
The Steelers should be able to run the ball, and that should be enough to win most games, but will that be enough if the Packers can keep Roethlisberger in the pocket and their cornerbacks win their matchups with Wallace and Ward.
This may sound strange, but if this game was to be played this Sunday in Green Bay I would have to go with the Steelers. The condition of the field would take a step away from the Packer receivers and help the Steeler cornerbacks. With this game being played inside on carpet I do not think the Steelers can match the Packer speed on the outside. More than that, their receivers are catching everything and running precise routes.
While this should be a tight game, some championships are won by an individual performance. I have not seen a quarterback come into a championship game playing better football than Aaron Rodgers, statistically maybe Joe Montana in 1989 or John Unitas in 1959, he is completing 71% of his passes in three road playoff wins, he is throwing accurately and running effectively, he leads the Packers to another NFL championship, 26-21.