Super Bowl XLV: Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Green Bay Packers Preview & Prediction

We’re currently two days away from the biggest game of the year – Super Bowl XLV, being played at JerryWorld in North Texas. After a season’s worth of hard hits, dropped passes, blood, sweat, and tears (or beers for the fans) it all boils down to 60 minutes of football.

Once again, we get to see our very own Pittsburgh Steelers represent the AFC in, while the NFC will be represented by the Green Bay Packers.

Let me start it off by saying that I’ve got nothing but respect for the Packers as an organization and as a team. They’re certainly one of (if not the) most storied franchise in NFL history. But, they haven’t seen a championship game since 1998. They battled through a tough season and won when it counted, drawing comparisons to the Steelers of 2005 and the New York Giants of 2007 because of the fact that they were on the road throughout the playoffs and still made it to the title game. Both the Steelers and Giants won it all in those years, so take that for what it’s worth.

This being Super Bowl week, there are of course plenty of big stories (some vastly overblown by the general media), and a lot of big matchups that make for some great storylines.

Of course there’s the quarterback duel that we discussed here. Beyond that we’ve got the outside linebacker battle that will without a doubt take place between Clay Matthews and James Harrison.

Clay Matthews, a product of USC,  is certainly a fantastic pass rusher, earning Pro Bowl honors in both of his first two seasons, and being the runner up for the Defensive Player Of The Year Award this year. Whereas James Harrison had a better statistical season than him in every category except for sacks, which Matthews led by three. It’s a given when talking about these two players that they’re going to give opposing offensive tackles nightmares, but the advantage has to go to Harrison, because of his bookend outside linebacker – LaMarr Woodley.

Teams are happy to have one pass rushing specialist coming off of the edge, but the Steelers have two. The pressure it takes off of both of them is absolutely immense. Offenses can’t stack the line on one side, because they’re asking for trouble on the other. The Packers will have to find an answer for the dual threat the Steelers will be bringing at Rodgers, but I expect both quarterbacks to have a tough time staying upright.

The Steelers are taking a huge hit on the offensive line, as Pro Bowl rookie center, Maurkice Pouncey, is still being held of out of practice, and despite reports should not and more than likely will not play, leaving backup Doug Legursky to fill in, as he did in the AFC Championship game against the New York Jets, in which he and Roethlisberger mis-communicated on two different snaps, one resulting in a safety.

The pair will have had two weeks to communicate and hopefully the quarterback-center exchange isn’t missing a step from Roethlisberger and Pouncey’s communication. The bigger problem, is the man that Legursky will be blocking. BJ Raji is a space eater, but not your typical 3-4 nose tackle. He has a nose for getting to the quarterback, amassing six and a half sacks this year. Not to mention he weighs more than Pittsburgh’s own nose tackle – Casey Hampton. Legursky’s going to have to play the best ball of his career.

Another interesting matchup that involves Matthews again, is the rivalry born this year with Troy Polamalu. The two are both USC alumni and there are no really thrashing comments from either one, in fact it’s rather funny to listen to the banter. Polamalu declared ‘Well, I know my hair is more valuable.’ One can’t help but to think that Matthews has to feel slighted in the Defensive Player Of The Year voting though, as the internet is abuzz with comments of ‘Polamalu didn’t deserve it’ ‘Someone else should’ve got it’ ‘It should have been Peppers’, etc. I’m not going to delve into that, as I don’t feel that ANY player out and out deserved it, but that Polamalu made enough plays that stuck out in voters minds.

That brings us to another interesting match up. Mike Wallace has disappeared in the playoffs, catching only four passes for 26 yards (20 of those yards were on one catch). This week he’ll more than likely get to go head to head with the Packers rookie sensation Sam Shields. Though, per usual, it’s not going to be a one on one matchup. Shield’s will likely have safety help over the top, as Wallace is used to seeing.

The Steelers secondary is going to have to step up against Rodgers and his talented receiving corps, Ike Taylor is generally regarded as a shut down corner, and of course Polamalu is there, though I would love to see Polamalu wrap up more than he has a tendency to. William Gay and Bryant McFadden are going to have to, like Legursky in the previous matchup, have the game of their careers in order to stall Packer’s drive.

Of course, this all start’s up front, so if defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau unleashes the outside linebackers like he enjoys to do early, then the secondary won’t have to hold their coverage for more than seven or so seconds.

This is possibly the perfect Super Bowl, both teams have great defensive coordinators, great quarterbacks, great pass rushers, great receivers, and really, really good tight ends. It’s going to be a great game to watch, and will more than likely come down to the wire. And, of course, as in most games that come down to the wire that feature Ben Roethlisberger, I’ve got a feeling that he’ll be able to orchestrate another Super Bowl winning drive.

Score Prediction

Steelers 27 Packers 21

Be sure and check out the Steel Hurtin’ Twitter account (@SteelHurtinBlog) during the game for play by play and commentary.

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~ by Steel Hurtin on February 4, 2011.

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