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February

Super Bowl XLV Preview Part One: Green Bay Packers Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

It’s here at last. Super Bowl Week.

We are T-minus five days and counting from Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Five days away from a potential fourth Lombardi Trophy coming back to Titletown (I know the first two weren’t technically called the ‘Lombardi Trophy’ but bear with me).

Since the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event of the year, I decided to do a preview on a much grander scale spread over five days. Starting today through the weekend, I will be breaking down the matchup for each team on each side of the ball plus special teams and coaching and ending with keys to the game and a prediction.

Today will be the Packers offense versus the Steelers defense. Tomorrow will be the Steelers offense vs. the Packers defense. Thursday will be the special teams comparison, Friday the coaching and then Saturday the keys to the game and my pick to win Super Bowl XLV.

Here we go with part one.

Green Bay Packers offense

Ever since opening day running back Ryan Grant went down with a knee injury in the first game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Packers offensive attack has started and ended with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Without the support of a solid running game for the vast majority of the season, Rodgers carried this offense on his right arm and for the most part did so brilliantly. After tight end Jermichael Finley, arguably the Packers’ biggest offensive weapon went down for the season the Packers receiving corps had to step up.

Enter wide receiver Greg Jennings. Even though he was practically ignored early on, Jennings has come up huge since Finley went down. In 2010, Jennings earned his first Pro Bowl spot (even though he couldn’t play due to the Packers being in the Super Bow) and has finally earned discussion in being part of the NFL’s elite wide receivers. With deceptive speed, great hands and an even better ability to get yards after the catch, Jennings has arrived on the NFL’s biggest stage.

This isn’t to say Jennings’ supporting cast is weak either. Ageless wonder Donald Driver continued to defy Father Time and contributed as we all have come to expect him too. Jordy Nelson and James Jones played key roles in certain games as well, though Jones has shown an unfortunate knack for dropping the ball at the worst possible time.

Getting the job done in the trenches is an offensive line that is vastly improved over 2010. Josh Sitton has emerged as one of the NFL’s best guards and tackle Chad Clifton had perhaps the best season of his career. Perhaps even more remarkable is that the Packers lost Mark Tauscher for the year and rookie Bryan Bulaga, though sometimes inconsistent, has not really had a downright “bad” game all season.

So what of the Packers’ previously non-existent running game? Well, with the late emergence of James “Neo” Starks and Brandon Jackson now playing his normal third down role, the Packers rediscovered a balanced offensive attack at the perfect time of year. Now opponents have to respect the Packers rushing attack, which makes an already potent passing attack even more lethal.

Pittsburgh Steelers defense

There’s no doubt that when Packers coach Mike McCarthy looked at the Steelers defense to begin game planning for the Super Bowl, he saw a defense that was a near mirror image of his own defensive unit.

Of course, there is a good reason for that. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers are both from the same tree so to speak. Capers coached in Pittsburgh before taking his first head coaching job with the then-expansion Carolina Panthers.

The similarities are endless. Aggressive linebackers. A powerful yet athletic secondary. A big and mobile front.

Sound familiar, Packers fans?

Leading the way for the Steelers is linebacker and former defensive player of the year James Harrison. Notorious for his hard hits that had him fork over $100,000 in fines to the NFL this year alone, Harrison is a fast and powerful player who would run over his own mother if it meant sacking the quarterback. Along with LaMar Woodley, James Farrior, and Lawrence Timmons, Harrison leads a linebacking corps every bit as great as the Packers.

The Steelers secondary isn’t bad either. With newly crowned (barely) NFL defensive player of the year safety Troy Polamalu leading the way, the secondary looks to give the Packers’ multiple weapons headaches all day long on Sunday. Ryan Clark is also dangerous as the other safety and corners Bryant McFadden and Ike Taylor are capable of making a big over the top interception at any given point.
Aaron Rodgers beware.

The Steelers defensive line is solid and underrated. Casey Hampton at nose tackle is very good against the run and a physical back like Starks will have some difficulty running up the A gap if he’s trying to avoid the Steelers linebackers. Defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Brett “the beard” Keisel have the ability to break through the Packers line on even a three man rush so the Packers offensive line will have their hands full all night.

The matchup

The Packers offense against the Steelers defense is probably the most intriguing matchup of Super Bowl XLV. A high octane offense against a high octane defense with everything on the line. It doesn’t get any better than that.

So who has the advantage? Well, I’d put it as “too close to call” with the Packers perhaps holding an ever-so-slight advantage.

Why the Packers? Simply put, they face the same basic defense every day in practice against their own defense. The offense the Steelers defense faces during the week, while still potent, is still not quite as explosive as the Packers’. Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, again while they are still talented, are not quite the same as Jennings and Driver and company.

That’s the other thing the Packers have going for the them: not just the amount of talent their playmakers have, but the sheer number OF playmakers they have.

It’s as close as a matchup as you likely will find in the NFL today, but the Packers to me have a slight edge.

Advantage: Packers (barely).

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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21 Responses to “Super Bowl XLV Preview Part One: Green Bay Packers Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Defense”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jersey Al – Packers and John , Chad Toporski. Chad Toporski said: AllGreenBayPackers: Super Bowl XLV Preview Part One: Green Bay Packers Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Defense http://bit.ly/h61j61 #Packers [...]

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  2. Charles says:

    I think you overrate Polamalu’s coverage ability when injured, and that of the Pittsburgh secondary overall.

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  3. Frank Rizzo says:

    No he doesn’t overrate Polamalu’s coverage ability.
    He’s out there, he’s healthy enough.

    Polamalu is what Charles Woodson was last year, which is capable of making a huge, game-changing play at any moment.

    That guy can come up with the big pick, roaming over across the field, he can stuff the run on 3rd & short or 4th & short, and he can blitz and strip-sack the QB as he did to Flacco this year to beat the Ravens.

    While we have 16 guys on IR, and they somehow have all their LBers healthy and Polamalu is not IR’d, I sure wouldn’t be broken-hearted if Polamalu, Harrison, or Woodley would tweak a hamstring a la what Matthews did in Washington that cost us 2 games.

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  4. Matt says:

    I agree w/ the slight edge to the Packers, but think it’s because an offense can choose its battles (play calling) in an attempt to minimize a defense’s strengths. Of course, playing a strong defense means at some level the Packers will need to “pick their poison”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      As Capers had to do in the last meeting with the Steelers, choosing 3-man rush and dime coverage when the Pack couldn’t get ant pressure on Ben with a 4 or 5 man rush.

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  5. Tarynfor12 Taryn says:

    This game is like when I’m watching my husband shave when running late.The face in the mirror is his but,I know it’s only a matter of time when either one(he’s convinced he is faster than himself) attempts a quick stroke against the grain and then comes the OOUCH…damm it.

    The winner in this game may be as simple as the one who can apply the wad of tissue fastest.

    MM if your listening,let the guy in the mirror try and draw “FIRST BLOOD” than go Rambo on his ass.

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  6. Bearmeat says:

    I have to say I completely disagree with the statement “The Steelers secondary isn’t bad either.” Outside of Polomolu, yes it is bad. Their best CB would be our dime back. If AR gets time to throw, our WR’s are going to TORCH their DB’s… Troy is amazing, and Clark is very good – but they can only cover 1 guy each… By my count, that leaves 2 or 3 WR’s left open on many plays…

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Protecting Rodgers will be the key. The Steelers will come after him, as they did in last eyar’s game. I have a Film Study of that scheduled for Thursday, probably…

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    • Tarynfor12 Taryn says:

      I’m sorry Bearmeat,as much as I would love to agree,every defense has a weakness, but the fact that this defense allows 14.5 pts a game,somehow over comes it’s short points where ever it may be on the field.
      The Packers give up 15.0,yet we have our points of failure and seem to overcome them also.

      “To convince yourself of the perceived fault of an opponent is showing your own fault”.

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      • Bearmeat says:

        Sorry Taryn, but neither McFadden or Taylor would even be nickel backs in our secondary. Taylor is good, but not great. McF sucks. And behind him it gets even better! Madison and Gay are Terrible! Jersey Al is right: If AR has enough time to throw, GB’s WR’s will TORCH their subpar secondary. The fact is that their secondary’s inadequacy is masked by their ferocious pass rush.

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  7. Sport-a-holic Gal says:

    I can’t wait for Sunday, I’m so excited to be a part of something so special. I watched the Packers fight their way into a fantastic position this year and have been so filled with pride from it all. Your article is very well written and I’m really happy to have gotten to read it. I’m home bound for the game but I do have the opportunity to watch the game in a pretty nice setting thankfully! My friend has a great home theater in his place and he upgraded to a HDTV recently and complete with surround sound the room should be almost rock’n on Sunday. He wanted to upgrade to all the HD support equipment needed to make this a really special occasion both for Sunday but also for games to come so since I happen to work for Dish Network I passed along some good info to hopefully help him out. He can qualify for free equipment and HD programming with his sports packed AT 250 package as an existing customer, he just needs to call in and find out. So, he did and was able to get a guy to come install this week! Awesome right, so as we sit or rather jump up and down, throwing things eating our hearts out in front the beautiful screen watching our Packers fight to a championship we will be rolling in style! Go Packers!!

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  8. al said it best. if we protect rodgers we have a great chance of winning.if we get to bigger ben we have a great chance of winning….BUT…if the steelers get to rodgers,can u say REAL long game.and if neither team gets to the QB then were in for a real old fashioned shootout…me, myself think this game is going to a have someone who is not on radar be the super bowl MVP alla…starks,nelson,quarless or who im rootin for…A.J. HAWK

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  9. AL, where are u watching the game…home local tavern or friends house.ps would love to meet up some day for coffee and packer talk im in hamilton-trenton area

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  10. Ron LC says:

    I’m hoping for a ball control offense. The longer we keep the Steeler defense on the field the better the chance of winning becomes. Is that saying anything new? No, but it’s the truth.
    Long drives that finish with points, preferably TD’s is the key.

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    • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

      Excellent point, Ron.

      Controlling the clock is always an important part of the game, but when it comes to the Steelers, this would be another great way of keeping the pass rush at bay. Longer drives means a more winded defense, especially late in the game.

      Conversely, the Packers defense needs to keep Big Ben and company from doing the same.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      finishing with TDs will be the tough part on the goal line, as the Jets found out last week. Those backers and the DPOY are fierce down there.

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  11. [...] we took a look at the Packers offense and Steelers defense the other day, let’s “do the Favre” and flip [...]

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