Since way back in early September, I have been putting out my version of an “NFL Preview” each and every Friday. Well this will be the final edition for the year. So take it in.
It all comes down to one game. The Mecca of American sports. Hands down the most widely viewed sporting spectacle we have in American sports. With an expected 110 million American viewers, we are two days away from the American Holiday that is “Super Bowl Sunday.”
Now I will admit, this game has me a bit stumped. Arguably the two most storied franchises in the NFL today are going head to head. Both of these teams have extremely rich traditions, filled with iconic figures, championships, and big time games. It really does not get much better than the fan bases that are Steeler Nation and the Cheeseheads regardless if you are a fan of either team. In my eyes, the Steelers are comparable to the Yankees of the NFL. They have the most Super Bowl Championship (currently 6), and are loved or hated by all. They are the one team in pro football that every fan in America has some sort of opinion on. And for that, I give the Steelers praise (even if I cannot stand their guts).
It has been a bitterly cold week in Dallas. Come Sunday, it will not matter when the stadium is completely sold out in Arlington and over 110 million Americans are tuning in. This event is the State of the Union for American athletics. As I stated before, it is the Mecca.
Now I am sure you all are already a bit tired of all the minutia and stats that have been thrown out all week. The Steelers come with the best run defense in the League, and sport a unit that has given up the fewest points in the NFL. While Green Bay sports a lethal aerial attack, the number 9 ranked offense in the NFL, and an outstanding defensive unit that has given up the 2nd least points in the League. Strictly looking at the numbers, this is going to be a great game. But who did not already know that?
This is the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. They are arguably the two most historic franchises in the League. The Steeler fans wave what is known as the “Terrible Towel.” This yellow towel is the possibly the most well-known symbol for any major sports team. The Packers have “Cheeseheads.” These are pretty well-known in their own right.
When looking at this game though, I feel the numbers need to be thrown out the window. These teams are very evenly matched. Generally when a team gets the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, they do not have too many wholes. And neither of these squads do. Here are a few keys to the game.
-Will Packer’s rookie running back James Starks continue to produce? He has had a wonderful playoff run thus far, but he also has not matched up with a team like Pittsburgh. They led the League in fewest rushing yards allowed for a reason. Also realize though, Starks has over 60 more yards on the ground than any other back in the postseason.
-Will Aaron Rodgers be able to expose the Steeler’s secondary? I have been saying it all year. If the Steelers have one achilles heel, it is their lack of depth in the secondary. Sure they have Troy Polamalu. But who else do they have that you can really depend on? Ryan Grant has always been vastly overrated for some time now in my eyes. Just because a guy makes the occasional big hit does not make him an elite safety. Then Ike Taylor is solid, but definitely not a “lock down” corner in my eyes. Packer’s receivers James Jones and Jordy Nelson could be the X-Factor in this game.
-Can Green Bay stop Rashard Mendenhall and the Steeler’s pretty solid rushing attack. In a game of this magnitude, the majority of teams crap their pants early on due to nerves. Therefore, being able to develop a solid rushing attack is of the utmost importance. The Steelers have to find a way to get some legitimate production on the ground or they will find it near impossible to win this game.
-Lastly, which QB has the nerves of steel. In any big game, there is a ton of pressure on your quarterback to cut down on mistakes and make the big plays in the 4th Quarter. So it comes down to who would you rather have running the 2 minute drill in the 4th, “Big” Ben Roethlisberger or the youngster Aaron Rodgers? A hit on Roethlisberger his entire career has been his inability to take care of the ball at times. This year he only threw 5 total INTs, granted he has thrown 2 already in the postseason. Rodgers threw 11 this season, and also has 3 in the postseason (granted he played 4 more regular season games than Ben and one more playoff game). Its a toss-up in my eyes. Both of these guys have the complete package and a great will to win.
My X-Factor in this game goes to the coaching staff. Yes I said it. I feel like Dick LeBeau’s amazing defensive mentality will give Rodgers just enough fits to lead the Steelers to a victory. In addition, I think that the Steelers will get more production from Mendenhall than the Packers will get from Starks. But the difference in the game will come down to coaching. I give the Steelers and D-Coordinator Dick LeBeau the edge.
I got the Steelers winning an absolute thrilling game 24 to 21. It should be fun. Big Ben will join some elite company with his 3rd Super Bowl Title. Do not sleep on the Packers though. Aaron Rodgers and the Cheeseheads will be back.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.