Sports

Stairway to Seven?

Well, we’ve all seen this before, haven’t we? The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the Super Bowl once again, shooting for their NFL-record seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy against the NFC representative, the Green Bay Packers. Throughout the playoffs, we’ve seen heated divisional rivalries, rematches from regular season games, and tons of top quarterbacks make early playoff exits. It only fits that two of the most storied franchises in the history of the NFL will take the field in Dallas, Texas to play in Super Bowl XLV in front of what is projected to be the largest crowd in Super Bowl history. This is the best time of the year for a Pittsburgh sports fan, but will the Steelers come through for a seventh time and start a mass riot on Feb. 6.

It’s been a trying season for both of the teams in the Super Bowl, but the Green Bay Packers may have had to deal with the most adversity since starting their season back in September. Green Bay currently has 15 players on injured reserve, including one of their longest-tenured players, linebacker Nick Barnett, and their top tight-end, Jermichael Finley, who was regarded as possibly the Packers’ best receiver. In addition to this, third-year QB Aaron Rodgers has suffered two concussions already this year, causing him to miss at least one full game and parts of others. Not to mention their star running back Ryan Grant went down in the first game of the season, leaving the Pack with a non-existent running game all season. Despite all these injuries, the Packers fought their way into the playoffs, winning two must-win games against winning teams in weeks 16 and 17 to just make the playoffs as the sixth seed.
So, how do these teams match up? Pittsburgh, always known for its defense, will have its work cut out with the Rodgers-led offense. Green Bay comes in with three proven wide receivers in Greg Jennings, James Jones, and Donald Driver — not to mention fourth receiver Jordy Nelson, who is no slouch at the position, either.

However, it’s not all about the receivers, but more about Rodgers. Despite struggling a little last week against the Chicago Bears, not many of us can forget his game against the Atlanta Falcons, where he completed 89 percent of his passes en route to putting up 48 points on the NFC’s one seed. The Steelers will need to load up on defensive backs this game, especially with all the weapons that Rodgers has at his disposal. Expect Rodgers to attack nickel-back William Gay all day, as he will most likely be covering Jones or Driver, which bodes well for the Packers.

Fortunately for the Steelers, safety Troy Polamalu and starting cornerback Bryant McFadden look like they are going to play, allowing the Steelers to play the defense that they love. Polamalu’s health is always an X-factor, considering he hasn’t been healthy all through the playoffs, and it has definitely shown. Troy missed two key tackles in the divisional round against the Ravens, and wasn’t much of an impact against the Jets just last week. If he can have a typical Troy game, he might make the game-changing play that we’ve been accustomed to. Although the Packers won’t be able to run the ball against the Steelers, I still fully expect them to put up 20 points at least, considering their strength in passing matches up with the defense’s weakness.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers will need to step up in order to keep up with the Packers’ offense. Green Bay features a deadly pass-rush, led by potential Defensive Player of the Year Clay Matthews, who was in the top five in the league with 14 sacks on the season. That’s not to mention big nose tackle B.J. Raji, who actually returned a touchdown last week against the Bears. However, I think the Steelers offense will be able to handle the pass-rush, as their offensive line has been playing amazingly throughout the playoffs. The Packers will most certainly try to take away the run and get their pass-rush in good situations to bring Ben down. We all know that Big Ben is at his best when he’s on the run and out of the pocket, and if he can make a few big plays on the run or scrambling, this Super Bowl will be highly contested, for sure.

However, if the Packers are able to contain him and not allow him to extend plays, it will allow for their excellent secondary to stick with the Steelers’ receivers, possibly forcing Ben into some interceptions. I am not encouraged by Big Ben’s game last week against the Jets, in which he put up a sub-50 passer rating, definitely getting outplayed by his second-year counterpart Mark Sanchez in a close victory. He did come through in the clutch, as usual, as he is known to be the best clutch quarterback in the game today. This weekend, he’ll need to play better, because the game will most likely be on the offense’s shoulders to win it.

That being said, I expect a very competitive Super Bowl, but not a defensive struggle like some experts seem to think it will be. Playing in a dome, the conditions will be perfect, which bodes well for both offenses. As the teams go back and forth, I think the better team comes out victorious in the end — the Green Bay Packers, by a score of 27–17. I know all of Pittsburgh hopes I’m wrong, and I can’t wait until next week.

That being said, I expect a very competitive Super Bowl, but not a defensive struggle like some experts seem to think it will be. Playing in a dome, the conditions will be perfect, which bodes well for both offenses. As the teams go back and forth, I think the better team comes out victorious in the end — the Green Bay Packers, by a score of 27–17. I know all of Pittsburgh hopes I’m wrong, and I can’t wait until next week.