Listening to the media you would think the game is already over and the Packers have won. Somehow they believe that the Steelers don’t stand a chance on either side of the ball. Let’s look at some of the areas the Steelers have in their favor. The Packers run defense ranked 18th allowing 114.9 yards per game. As for the difference that 28.7 yards per game makes, If the Packers allowed 28.7 more yards per game rushing, there would only be 3 teams worse in the NFL. If Mendenhall has the success running the ball that we all think he can against this Packers defense then it will most definitely open up the play action passing game for Ben to where he can take a bunch of shots down the field to Wallace. Look for the Steelers to take numerous shots down the field to Wallace if they are running the ball successfully especially around the 45-50 yard line like they usually do. Wallace I believe gets at least one 40-50 yard plus TD in this game. He burned the Packers secondary last season in the game here at Heinz Field, he will do it again Sunday in Dallas.
Aaron Rodgers is better against the blitz, WHEN it is picked up by the blockers. When teams blitz and he does not get touched, he is excellent with a completion percentage of 66.5%. He has 5 TDs and 1 INT with 8 sacks. BUT, when he is under pressure, his completion percentage drops to 45% with 5 TDs, 1 INT, and 30 sacks. As stated many times, the key will be to HIT Rodgers, not just blitz him.
Another advantage the Steelers have is Heath Miller. The most underrated Tight End in the NFL, hands down. When Heath was down with the concussion earlier this year the offense was clearly at a disadvantage; defenses didn’t have to account for the middle of the field as much. His ability to find the soft spot in any defense, get open, and make the 1st down is crucial to the gameplan’s success. I like the matchup of Miller up against any defense in the league quite honestly. There’s no reason to think he won’t make a few key plays in this game. He and Ward have been Ben’s favorite targets over the years when you have to get that 3rd down conversion.
And, I have to laugh out loud about all the Woodson hype. Woodson was a 4.4 to 4.45 guy coming out of college. There is NO way anyone can tell me that he is under 4.5 at 34. Tramon Williams ran a 4.57 at his pro day in 2006. Sam Shields is the only guy the Packers have that even approaches the speed needed to cover Mike Wallace. If the Packers put Wallace in man coverage they will be in huge trouble. The Packers corners will need safety help over the top on Wallace, meaning to pull an 8th man into the box, they either have to man cover Hines Ward or place a single guy on Heath Miller. Either way, I’ll take that. If the Packers do not bring an 8th man in the box, the Steelers will roast their mediocre run defense, much like they did the #3 ranked run defense last weekend against the Jets.
The Steelers dropped 4 games this season to 4 playoff teams. They lost to the Patriots, Ravens, Jets, and Saints. The Packers lost to teams like the Lions, Redskins, and Dolphins and THEN almost get beaten by a 3rd string QB in the playoffs. In all of those games that the Steelers lost they were in the game in the 4th quarter with a chance to tie or win. The only exception was the Patriots game where the points and yardage the Steelers got in the 2nd half was mostly when Brady and Co. went to sleep.
You can talk all you want, but the Packers are in the Super Bowl because the Bears offense sucks. The only top 10 defense they faced in the playoffs was the Bears at #9. They will get a taste of reality come Sunday in Dallas. They say that until you play a Steeler defense you really don’t know what it’s all about. The same can be said for a defense facing Ben Roethlisberger when they don’t do it on a regular basis. Either way though Lebeau’s group will be ready and will fight, kick, and scratch to make a play every time they get a chance. When the chips are down the Steeler defense has come through more often than not, you have to like their chances of making some big plays on Sunday.
One other point from last year, when the Steelers and Packers played, they still had Matthews, Woodson, Williams, and others and Roethlisberger put a 5-spot on the Packers defense. The Packers sacked him 5 times behind a worse line than they have now, and he STILL put up 500 yards.
The Steelers still have guys that have played under those flashing lights before and the Packers don’t. Ben Roethlisberger will outplay Aaron Rodgers and much like he always seems to have a knack for doing in these big games, he will make a big play or two that will be key to the outcome. Also, the Steelers defense is better then the Packers defense and that will also be the difference as well. Troy Polamalu has been way too quiet for way too long the last month or so. He has yet to come up with a big time play in either of the Super Bowls he has played in. Look for Troy to finally come up big in this game. I’m expecting him to make a big, big defensive play at some point that will really be a major turning point.
None of this guarantees a win by any stretch of the imagination. However with all the media hyping up the Packers as pretty much having this one in the bag, it’s clear to everyone that the Steelers have some playmakers too. We’ll just leave it at that…