On the offense
While the Packers and Steelers show striking similarities in their defensive play, their offenses are decidedly different. Pittsburgh would be nowhere without their running game, while the Packers probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs without their passing game.
Pittsburgh: Run it
Say what you want about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s play on the field, the guy is a proven winner. Even though he missed the first four games of the season, he still threw for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns. At 6’5” and 241 pounds he is hard to bring down and third on the team in rushing with 176 yards (a 5.2 yard average per rush). Roethlisberger can look terrible for most of a game but when a play needs to be made, Big Ben will make it. He wears two Super Bowl rings. His favorite target this year is wide receiver Mike Miller, who averages 21 yards per reception. However, when he needs to get out of a jam, he will most likely look to future Hall of Famer Hines Ward, who, in his 12th year, is still one of the toughest players on the football field.
Green Bay: Pass it on
The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers is on fire right now, notwithstanding the second half of the NFC Championship game in Chicago. The Packers needed to win their last five games to keep themselves alive, and the offense did that on the back of Rodgers. In 15 games during the regular season Rodgers had a quarterback rating of 101.2. He threw for 3,922 yards with 54 passing plays over 20 yards. Rodgers is second on the team in rushing with 356 yards and is as accurate as anyone when passing on the run. His quick release is second to none and he knows the offense scheme as well as anyone. The Packers offense definitely runs through Rodgers and he exudes the confidence unique to great quarterbacks, without being cocky.
There’s no greater talent in the NFL at wide receiver than Greg Jennings. Jennings really stepped up his game after Jermichael Finley was lost for the year earlier in the season. Jennings led the team with 1265 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. Like all Packers receivers, he is dangerous after the catch and is not intimidated by crossing patterns.
The top four Packers receivers all have at least 580 yards receiving and have combined for 23 of the Packers 31 passing touchdowns. They have too many drops, but make up for those with some spectacular catches.
The Packers running game was nonexistent after Ryan Grant was lost for the season in the first game. It wasn’t until the end of the regular season that flashes of light started to appear with the emergence of the rookie James Starks, who gave the Packers hope for a running game. And say what you will about running back Brandon Jackson, there are few in the game today who run the screen play better than he does.
Special teams is always an intangible, and throughout the year it’s been the Achilles’ heel for both the Packers and the Steelers. Both teams have problems with their coverage units and both are middle of the pack when it comes to punting and kicking.
By the numbers
On the offensive side of the ball, both teams are successful but with very different styles of play. Compare these offensive stats:
- Points Scored per Game – Packers 24, Steelers 23
- Total Yards per Game – Packers 358, Steelers 345
- Time of Possession per Game – Packers 32:01, Steelers 32:24
- Rushing Yards per Game – Packers 104, Steelers 120
- Passing Yards per Game – Packers 257, Steelers 225
- Total Offensive Rank in NFL – Packers 9, Steelers 14
So, who’s taking home the trophy?
Picking the winner of this game is a coin flip. Both defenses are tough and both offenses make plays when they need to. Both teams went 2-3 in the regular season against like opponents. Pittsburgh has the experience with Ben Roethlisberger and many of his teammates having two Super Bowl wins under their belts. Plus they have a running game that can take time off of the clock and keep Green Bay’s offense off of the field. Rodgers however, is playing on a different planet right now.
The Packers may have caught a break if Pittsburgh’s starting center Maurkice Pouncey is unable to play, which is looking almost official at this writing. He is a big reason for the Steelers’ running success, and when he went down in the AFC Championship game, so did the Steelers’ running game.
The Packers need to tackle Roethlisberger before he gets out of the pocket. The Steelers need to get to Rodgers early in the game to be successful defensively. Don’t be surprised to see the Packers using a lot of spread formation offense in the Super Bowl – the Steelers have had trouble this year with 4- and 5- man receiver sets.
This could be one of the most exciting Super Bowls in recent memory. I don’t see a blowout, but it’s never out of the question. I predict Packers 23 – Pittsburgh 21: a Green Bay victory by two. What’s your prediction?