I have a great feeling about the Super Bowl on Feb. 6th. Just like last year’s Colts/Saints match-up, both teams are equally qualified and deserving of winning the title of Super Bowl Champions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter this game as the AFC #2 seed, with a regular season record of 12-4, and winners of postseason games against top NFL defenses in the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets.
The keys to success for the Pittsburgh Steelers:
1. Run game. You have to keep a defense, like the Packers have, honest. With Clay Matthews’ pass rush ability, the Steelers, namely Rashard Mendenhall, will need to give the Packers’ line backers a reason to respect the run game.
2. Special teams. It’s likely the Packers defense will win a few battles and force punts/field goals from the sporadic Pittsburgh offense. They will have to win the field position battle and not give Aaron Rodgers a short field.
3. “Polamalu Factor”. Troy Polamalu is such a keystone of that Steelers defense. Troy is always where the play is. He makes dive-over-the-line tackles on quarterbacks as they snap the ball. He intercepts passes in deep coverage. He is the leader of one of the greatest defenses in the NFL. He alone can win games with his play-making abilities. Rumors as to the severity of Polumalu’s Achilles tendon injury that had him sidelined from practice have subsided as he was a full participant at the last Steelers practice. Time will tell how healed it really is.
If the Steelers can get any 2 of these 3 keys, they win the Super Bowl. If they get just 1 of those 3, they will lose. That’s it.
The Green Bay Packers were the final team to qualify for the NFC wildcard spot and 6th seed. They had if not a harder, certainly a longer road to the Super Bowl than the Steelers, having to play the wildcard game against the Philadelphia Eagles. You might argue that the Packers don’t have the #1 offense or #1 defense in the league but what they do have, is talent and momentum on both sides of the ball.
The keys to success for the Packers:
1. Run Defense. You have to make the Steelers one-dimensional. Because Ben Roethlisberger is also a run threat, the Packers have to keep a spy on Big Ben and let Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, and Sam Shields cover the receivers. DT B.J. Raji will need to use all his 337 lbs to get to Big Ben and halt the run as well.
2. Blocking. Let’s face it, the Packers are not going to run the ball on the Steelers. The end. The Steelers have the #1 run defense in the League and Green Bay has the 24th ranked rushing game. The bottom line is that Aaron Rodgers is going to have to win this game. In order for that to happen, the Green Bay OL must block like they never have in their lives. The Steelers’ D-line and Co. made a mockery of the Jets O-line. Let’s remember, the Jets have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Look for Rodgers to have to make some plays on the run. Holding penalties need to be avoided at all costs so as not to help a Pittsburgh defense that is fully capable of destroying you on their own.
Green Bay running backs must play a large roll in the blocking as well, as Pittsburgh will likely send Polamalu on more than a couple blitzes.
3. “Clay Matthews Factor”. As referenced above, the Packers need to put a spy on Roethlisberger and Matthews is more than capable if Big Ben decides to run. Matthews is powerful enough to bring Ben down. As a spy, he’ll be useful containing both Roethlisberger and the Steelers run game.
As with the Steelers, if the Packers can accomplish 2 of the 3 keys to success, they will beat the Steelers. If both Matthews and Polamalu are having great nights, I’d say advantage Steelers.
After all is said and done, I think the Steelers win the Super Bowl 20-17.