Split picks in the Super Bowl preview
By Mike Salk and Brock Huard
Let’s hope Dec. 20th, 2009 reappears in Dallas, Texas on Sunday, sort of. It was that day when Ben Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace with no time remaining to beat Green Bay 37-36. Big Ben ended with a franchise best 503 passing yards and three touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t bad himself, going 26 of 48 for 383 yards and three touchdowns too. That wouldn’t be a bad Super Bowl, would it?
I can’t imagine we will see the same offensive fireworks Sunday, yet there was one area of success the Packers had that day which will once again prove critical: third down executuion. On that cold afternoon at Heinz Field the Packers were 10 of 16, which offset their meager 60 rushing yards. I feel they must be above the 50% success rate Sunday to win. In fact, when the Pack beat Philly and Atlanta this postseason, they were 64% combined on third down, essential to their success.
For the Steelers, the recipe is pretty simple and their business plan tried and true. Run the ball, control the clock, get the game to the second half, and make the game-changing play when the time comes. The real difficult match-up for the black and gold is their offensive line against the Packers front seven, and if they get into long yardage situations the Packers should be able to take advantage of backups at center, left tackle and right tackle.
I really hope we see the Packers execute at their highest level and not allow the moment to suffocate them. The Steelers will be ready for this stage, and the match-ups on paper are fantastic. I have said for the last two weeks I would really like to see Aaron Rogers win this Super Bowl and my heart says Green Bay. Unfortunately, my mind and eye has seen this Pittsburgh crew deliver too many times and that experience will be the difference.
Brock’s pick: Pittsburgh 27, Green Bay 20
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I’ve made no secret of the fact I’ll be rooting for Green Bay on Sunday. How could you not? From the inherent kitschy likeability of the Packer fans to the cajones showed by the organization in trading Brett Favre, this team is easy to support.
But can they actually win?
In many ways, the Packers match up well against the Steelers. Look at the teams that have had success against Pittsburgh: The Patriots, Saints, Ravens and Jets were the only teams to beat them this year and Pittsburgh avenged two of those losses. The Patriots spread them out and forced them to cover as many wide receivers as possible. The Saints did the same thing. Both of those teams feature deep receiving corps and complex passing games designed to get the ball in the playmakers’ hands in space.
Sound like any other offense you can think of?
Green Bay does not have a player in the top 15 in receptions; Greg Jennings led their team with 76 catches. But they do have four receivers who can all play â€“ in fact, they may have the deepest group in the league. Jennings, James Jones, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson are all capable of making plays and all can beat individual coverage. The Steelers, meanwhile, have an excellent defensive front seven and the best safety in football, but after Ike Taylor, they have trouble defending outside. If Aaron Rodgers can buy himself time and make accurate passes, the Packers should be able to take advantage of second and third cornerbacks Bryant McFadden and William Gay.
Will that be enough?
The answer, of course, depends on how well Green Bay can contain Pittsburgh’s offense. The Steelers try to plod forward with Rashard Mendenhall and then rely on Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to make plays late. My brain tells me that Clay Matthews could have a profound impact on the game, pressuring the quarterback and using his speed to contain Roethlisberger. My gut though, remembers how many times Big Ben has escaped the grasp of a would-be tackler.
I may be thinking more with my heart than my head, but…
Mike’s pick: Green Bay 20, Pittsburgh 17