|106.5 million viewers tuned in last year to watch the New Orleans Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44, which was the most watched program in television history. Sure, the game had two of the top signal callers in the league and two high flying offenses, but I have a feeling that Super Bowl 45 is going to shatter the record. When the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers, it isn’t just the Super Bowl that we see every year. It is the two most-storied franchises in the league squaring off for the first time in the big game. The Packers have 12 league championships, including 3 Super Bowl trophies (only one being the Lombardi trophy that we see now, since it was named after their late coach) and the Steelers, as we all know, have 6 Super Bowl trophies, more than any other team in the league. It’s interesting that this game would be played in Dallas as the Steelers and the Packers serve as two of the biggest rivals to the Cowboys throughout history. The Steelers dominated the Cowboys in the 1970’s and the famous Ice-Bowl game with the Packers, are reasons for the City of Dallas to cringe at the Super Bowl participants. Historically, the Cowboys have been known as America’s team, but on Sunday, the two most popular teams in the league will have the right to take the title over.
Both teams have taken similar routes to get to the big game and both teams play a similar style of ball. So, just how is the winner going to be determined? The Packers come into the game favored by 2.5 points over the Steelers and that is simply because of the hot play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It will be interesting to see how Rodgers will handle the pressure from the Steelers linebackers, especially that of James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley. I look for the Packers to spread out the Steelers defense with 4 and 5 wide receiver sets while mixing in a draw or misdirection run here and there. The Steelers gave up a league low 66 yards rushing a game and without their number one running back Ryan Grant, I would be shocked if the Packers have more than 12 rushing attempts in the game. By going with a spread set, Rodgers will have to have a quick release and be aware of the linebackers coming off the edge. His best hope is to force Troy Polamalu to cover a slot receiver, a matchup that will favor the Packers every time. Polamalu is the greatest safety of the decade, but he is explosive, not fast enough to cover Jordy Nelson or James Jones. The Steelers have faced offenses built like the Packers earlier this season against the Saints and Patriots and they fell victim to both of them. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will be able to come up with a scheme to slow down the Packers but not keep them at bay.
The big question for the Steelers offense leading into the game was the health of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey left the AFC Championship game on the first drive against the Jets with a high ankle sprain and it was made official on Friday that he will not play. In Pittsburgh, the motto is ‘the standard is the standard’ so in comes Doug Legursky, the second year offensive lineman from Marshall. Now obviously there is a significant drop off from Pouncey to Legursky, but I feel he will be able to hold his own. Much had been made about the matchup between Legursky and Packers tackle B.J. Raji. I don’t see this being too much of a factor, however, as Raji more times than not, will shift over against the guards and tackles to allow pressure up the middle by Clay Matthews. The only worry I have is the quarterback – center exchange. We saw in the AFC Championship game two fumbles occur between Legursky and Roethlisberger. This will become especially important in goal line situations while things are bunched up.
The first of the two main advantages that the Steelers have in this game is their Super Bowl experience. They know what it’s like to walk out on the field with 100,000 camera’s flashing on them. The butterflies will still be there, but not to the same extent as the Packers will have. The second is their advantage in the running game. Green Bay finished ranked 18th in the league this year against the run and have proved to be susceptible against it. I look for the Steelers to run primarily to the right side behind big Flozel Adams to set up the pass. Once they can establish the run, Ben will be able to have more passing lanes open up for his receivers. If the Steelers aren’t able to get Rashard Mendenhall going however, it’s going to be a long day as the Green Bay secondary is outstanding.
With all this being said, it looks like the Packers have the advantage in almost every category and seem to be the sexy pick. I think the Packers have the best shot to win and are more of a formidable opponent against the Steelers than the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals were in 2005 and 2008. The thing is, I just can’t be against the Steelers in a big game. We have seen it time and time again that they come back to win in the fourth quarter and the reason for that – Ben Roethlisberger. He isn’t your prototypical, sexy quarterback like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but he knows how to win when it matters. He said it best when he said that he won’t ever win a passing title or an MVP award, but when it comes down to it, he will win the Super Bowls. Against the Seahawks he wasn’t great and against the Cardinals he led the most amazing drive in Super Bowl history. Look for Ben to seal his Hall of Fame ticket with a win on Sunday, 24-20 with Rashard Mendenhall taking home the MVP hardware. The Steelers will knock down seven’s door and be on their way to win great number eight.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com