Blog Entry

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

Posted on: January 24, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 6:08 pm

Posted by Charley Casserly

It’d be hard to ask for a better matchup in Super Bowl XLV than the Green Bay Packers vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. These are the hottest teams in their respective conferences. Both have big-name quarterbacks, playmakers on offense and a host of Pro Bowl caliber contributors in their well-coached 3-4 defenses. It’s no wonder the oddsmakers and pundits are forecasting a close game. Here is an early overview of the matchup.

Three "X" FactorsB. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)

1. Super Bowl experience

The Steelers, only two years removed from winning Super Bowl XLIII, have an edge in experience that will come in to play both on and off the field. Having been in four Super Bowls myself, here is how I see the edge manifesting itself:

There are a lot of off the field distractions the players and staff have to deal with. These include ticket requests, media requests, family and friends travel, etc. The coaches have to manage these distractions while determining how much of the game plan to install at home and how much to install after arriving in Dallas. Some teams like to put in the game plan before they get to the Super Bowl site in order to have it done before the majority of distractions set in. Others want to wait so as not to have the players get bored or stale the week of the game.

The Steelers and their staff have dealt with this conundrum before. The Packers, for the most part, have not.

2. The two weeks to prepare and rest

I think this could favor or hurt Green Bay – we won't know until the game. On the one hand Green Bay is on a roll. They have faced elimination in their last five outings. They survived and, thus, have momentum. The two-week break could disrupt that momentum.
On the other hand, the break may be just the thing they need to get recharged. If they had to play next week, they maybe would run out of gas.

3. Green Bay’s familiarity with defensive scheme

The Packers may have an edge over many, if not all, of the opponents that the Steelers have played this year. That edge? They play the same 3-4 defense as Pittsburgh. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau worked together in Pittsburgh when LeBeau was the defensive backs coach when Capers was the defensive coordinator (1992-94). This will help Green Bay more than other teams that have had to prepare for Pittsburgh this season, as Green Bay will have had a better look in practice from their scout team in imitating Pittsburgh's defense.

Two key statistical categories that could come into play

1. Sacks per pass play

In terms of sacks per pass play, the Steelers offense ranks 30th in preventing sacks, while the Packers defense ranks third. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay's offense is 20th in sacks per pass play while Pittsburgh’s defense is sixth. Just watching film, it would seem Green Bay has the edge here. The statistics agree.
Both teams will have the opportunity to sack the opposing QB. I believe it comes down to which QB can avoid the pressure and still make a play. Conversely, which team when they get that free defender can bring the opposing QB down? Ben Roethlisberger is not only mobile, he is big and strong. He can throw with defenders draping off of him. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, is quicker a foot than Roethlisberger and can avoid defenders. 

2. Rushing

The Steelers run defense is ranked number one in the NFL. The Packers rushing offense is ranked 24th. This is a clear advantage for the Steelers. How will the Packers be able to run the ball? I believe their best chance will be to spread the Steelers out to make them defend the pass first, then come back with the run second. In other words, set up the run with the pass.

Three matchups of note (Green Bay offense vs. Pittsburgh defense)

1. Green Bay Wide Receivers vs. Pittsburgh CB's

The Packers have a decided edge here. The two things the Steelers must do to negate this edge is a.) jam the receivers off the line to disrupt their timing on their routes in their rhythm passing game and b.) do a good job tackling when Green Bay’s wideouts catch the ball. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson are all fantastic at running after the catch.

2. Green Bay's OT’s vs. Pittsburgh’s OLB’s

This is an edge for Pittsburgh. Most defenses only have one good pass-rusher. Pittsburgh has two in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Green Bay has to either make sure they help their OT's in some way (likely with a RB chipping or a TE staying in to block). The Packers cannot let the Steeler OLB's go one on one against Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, backup T.J. Lang or one of their backs.

3. Green Bay’s center Scott Wells vs. Pittsburgh’s NT Casey Hampton

This is an advantage for Pittsburgh in terms of size and strength. If the Packers can't find a way to control Hampton by helping Wells or devise a running scheme to take advantage of Hampton's tendency to over-pursue (such as having the RB cut back against the grain in the opposite direction of Hampton's initial movement), they will struggle to run the ball.

Three matchups of note (Green Bay defense vs. Pittsburgh offense)

1. Green Bay’s NT B.J. Raji vs. Pittsburgh’s C (Maurkice Pouncey or Doug Legursky)

Raji will have a decided edge over whoever Pittsburgh plays at OC (Pro Bowl rookie Maurkice Pouncey hopes to play on his bad ankle; third-year pro Doug Legursky is the backup). It is the same principle that Green Bay faces in running the ball against Casey Hampton: you need a plan to negate the edge that the opposing NT has over your C. B. Raji (US Presswire)

2. Green Bay’s nickel defense vs. Pittsburgh’s run offense

Green Bay will line up in their nickel defense on running downs and dare teams to run the ball. (Often times, they have just two defensive linemen in these packages.) If the Packers do this, the Steelers have to take advantage and run the ball effectively.

3. Green Bay’s OLB Clay Mathews vs. Pittsburgh OT's (LT Jonathan Scott, RT Flozell Adams)

Both OT's for Pittsburgh, Scott and Adams, are backup players. Mathews, like James Harrison, is one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. Mathews has to win his matchups against the Steelers tackles. The Packers do a good job moving him around to get him into favorable matchups. Can the Steelers figure this out and find a way to block him? 

Beyond the statistics and matchups: two more things to watch  

1. Will Green Bay employ a strategy similar to New England's plan against the Steeler defense? The Patriots spread the Steeler defense out and had a lot of success passing the ball. I think that is the best plan to beat the Steeler defense – and I think the Packers have the ideal personnel to execute that plan.

2. Will the Steelers try to run the ball to the outside early in the game to make those big Packer defensive linemen run to the ball? The hope here is that doing so will make those D-linemen tire and wear down as the game goes along. Fatigued defensive linemen, of course, are less effective against both the run and pass later in the game.

This is a very even game, but I give the edge to the Steelers because of the slight edge at QB and their greater big game experience. I think the difference in the game will be Roethlisberger making more plays against the pass-rush than Rodgers. 

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 5, 2012 3:42 pm
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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 9, 2011 9:13 am
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Since: Oct 13, 2007
Posted on: January 26, 2011 11:55 am

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

Footballguy44 - I'd give your post 10 stars if I could.  You hit it on the head!  Also, as you go on in life, you must heed thy advice: 

Floss daily, double check drive thru orders, and whatever direction Casserly goes on anything, pick the opposite the very next millisecond you can!

Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: January 25, 2011 2:55 am

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

Yeah, the 500-plus passing yards he hung on the Packers D last year doesn't mean anything, right? 

Nope it doesn't that was last year duh! its a completely different D than last year.

Since: Sep 10, 2008
Posted on: January 25, 2011 2:19 am
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Since: Sep 13, 2007
Posted on: January 24, 2011 11:18 pm

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

I think the author of the story got the match-ups about right. Green Bay does have the defensive players to run a successful 3-4. Hawk and Mathews are dangerous; and Raji is a beast besides although his endzone dance looks vulgar.
The Packers offense has overcome a lot of injuries and the people that McCarthy (a Burgher btw) has plugged in have played very well. I think it will come down to how well can each defense defend the opposing quarterback. If Harrison or Woodley over-pursue on the rush - Rodgers may be able to extend the play and make big passes - but both of these guys are disciplined in their play. I am sure the Packer outside linebackers will try to nail Ben, and they do have a good secondary - but is it better than the Jets and can they defend the 5 WR's plus Heath Miller?
 I don't think the packers will be able to run on the steelers but McCarthy will test that theory. I do see Pittsburgh trying to run; but believe the Packers will have more success than the Jets. But thjis will open up play action passes for Pittsburgh.

The intangibles that worries me most is special teams and the status of Maurkice Pouncey. If Pittsburgh does not give up long returns and the O-line gives Ben a little time; it should be another hard fought Steelers victory.
Heading for Dallas - anybody have suggestions on good watering holes there?

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2011 11:05 pm

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

"he threw missiles all around Big Ben?I didn't realize Ben was a DB trying to cover AR,nearly 2 weeks to the big game,i say congrats to both teams for getting to the ultimate big show,plenty of time to breakdown strengths and weaknesses,enjoy the moment GB and PGH

Since: Nov 23, 2009
Posted on: January 24, 2011 11:01 pm

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

Green Bay, offensively, is every bit as good as New England, and on a fast track, like they will be in Dallas (excuse me, Arlington), I expect that they will give Pittsburgh all they want and then some.  The Packers will not find it difficult to score in this game because their offensive skill position players are much better than anything Pittsburgh has seen - especially recently.  Expect to see a performance out of Aaron Rodgers that is much closer to the Atlanta outing than what you saw yesterday against Chicago.

On the Defensive side of the ball, the Packers have every bit as many playmakers as any defense the Pittsburgh offense has played against this year.  The question will be whether they can contain the running game - much of this will have to do with how effective Pouncey is, assuming he plays.  Their defensive backfield matches up well with the Pittsburgh receiving corp. 

There is a reason that Green Bay has not trailed anyone the entire year by more than 7 points - including on the road at NE, BTW.  They are good, and often dynamic on both sides of the ball.  I anticipate a very good game, but I like Green Bay here - I just think that they are more talented.

Green Bay 27, Pittsburgh 20.

Since: Feb 25, 2008
Posted on: January 24, 2011 9:35 pm

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

How does Green Bay have the edge cause they use the same defense as pitt..Wouldnt that make it even since they both run the same d? and both DC worked with eachother??....stupid article

Since: Aug 14, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2011 4:06 pm

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

Floridaboy, stick with college football. Guess you forgot that Ben has a .718 lifetime win percentage in the regular season. Or maybe you forgot that he's 10-2 (.833) in the post season. Yeah, the 500-plus passing yards he hung on the Packers D last year doesn't mean anything, right? And the 4th quarter march in SB 43 was a complete fluke. For that matter, the 26th 4th quarter comebacks that are on his resume were all flukes. The only QB of this generation that I might take over him in a game like this is Brady. That includes Rodgers, Manning (who wouldn't last a few games with the patchwork line that Pittsburgh puts out there), Brees, Rivers (I think it's safe to say he can only get it done in the regular season), Vick and Manning's little brother. 
Everyone needs to get fantasy stats out of their heads. Ben Roethlisberger is the real deal.

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