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Derek vs. The Spread: Superbowl

Big Ben’s Super Bowl experience gives Pittsburgh the quarterback edge vs. Green Bay.

by Derek Leblanc

This is the moment that we have all been waiting for. The Green Bay and Pittsburgh Steelers will clash in Dallas on Sunday for the Super Bowl. While I can sit here and bore you with pre game talk I like to get down to business. I decided to break down each position on the field and see who has the upper hand come kickoff time.

Green Bay Packers (-2.5) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterbacks
Green Bay-When trying to figure out who has the edge at quarterback going into super bowl 45, it is pretty even. Both team’s starters are easily two of the best five quarterback in the league. With Green Bay, what can’t you say about Aaron Rodgers that we have not seen in this postseason? He is basically taking this team and has a won three road games which is a feat in itself because the only other two in recent memory that have done it are Eli Manning with the Giants in 08 and the very qb he will face in Ben Roethlisberger who did it in 06. His rating is least in the 120 range in 3 of his 4 playoff games and even thou he had trouble last week against the toughest front 7 in the bears, he was still able to tackle down Brain Urlacher to save him from throwing a pick six. Plus with his scrambling, this will not be Rodgers only super bowl in his career.
Pittsburgh-While he may have his worse playoff showing in his career, Big Ben is clutch in the postseason. Over his career, he has gone 10-2 and has two super bowl rings to show for it and another win would give him a one way ticket to Canton, Ohio. We see what he can do in big pressure situations and is one of the best scramblers in the league but with how banged up his offensive line this season, he needs to be against this defense. Plus with playing teams like the Ravens twice a year, it has made this dude tough and can take a hit. In the one meeting he had against the Ravens, he suffered a broken nose and instead of getting it checked out, he got it popped back in and won the game for the Steelers. Hell he even fell off a motorcycle with no helmet and acted like it was nothing. He will not feel the pressure because of his past experience and with the various styles of receivers the team has, he can beat you in many ways
Advantage-While Rodgers does have the hot hand going into the game, i still have to lead with the Steelers for the better quarterback. Big Ben has gotten the Super Bowls and you should only play to do one thing and that is to hold the Lombardi trophy at season’s ends.

Running Backs
Green Bay-While at the start of the season, they were set at the position with Ryan Grant, things can change in a flash. Grant went out the first game on the season against the Eagles and the Packers have had trouble filling the void that he 1200 yards he brought to the team. While they have one of the better fullbacks in the league in John Kuhn, he can only really help with pounding through a defensive line and can’t get the big run. For most of the season, Brandon Jackson has been getting most of the carries, he has little success. The last couple of games of the regular season and part of the playoffs, James Starks have been able to give the team the help it needs to have a balance offense. While most people never heard of Starks till week 17, the former university of Buffalo star was the big reason why the team played in the international bowl back in 09. While the Steelers have the 2nd best rush defense of all time in stats, Green Bay will have try and find a way to have some success.
Pittsburgh-While the Steelers have their guy in the backfield with Rashad Mendenhall, people still think the rush is the weakest part of their offense. Mendenhall may not get the big name status like a Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson; he quietly got third in rushing yards this season. If you want to look and see how well he really is, you have to look at his two games against the Jets this season. The Jets were 3rd in rushing yards allowed this season Mendenhall was the only person this year who could get over 100 yards in rushing against them. In week 15, he got 99 yards on 17 carries which was an average of 5.8 yards per carry. In the AFC championship he was basically the only person who could muster any good offense against the Jets going for 121 yards. While Isaac Redman has been good on third down situations for the Steel curtain, Mendenhall will be depended on big time if the Steelers want to win.
Advantage-While both team’s rushing attacks were both ranked in the top five, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the Steelers have the upper hand.

Offensive Line
Green Bay-One year can make a difference and that is the case for the front five of the pack. In 2009, Aaron Rodgers was sacked more than any other quarterback in the league. While it taught Rodgers to scramble better this season, the team picked up there game and were able to make adjustments to make sure the franchise is on the field. While you read this you may think that the o line had trouble because Rodgers had concussions on two separate occasions against the Lions and Redskins. For both times, Rodgers had gone pass the line and ran when he could not fine an open target. While at the start of the year they had problems with false starts, especially in week three at Chicago, they were able to get that jump that they need.
Pittsburgh-While the Steelers had some problems last year when the lost standout Alan Faneca to the Jets via free agency two years ago., they were able to adjust but this season has been hard on the team because of the injuries. Flozell Adams will be looked upon to help lead this time. While he does bring 13 year career with him, his best days are behind him. The also lost rookie center Maurkice Pouncey suffered an ankle injury against the Jets, While he was still a rookie and learning on the job, he was a big help for Florida getting a BCS championship and for Tim Tebow being able to rush for as many yards as he do. While the replacements have been able to work short periods of times to help Mendenhall, it has taken a toll on big ben when in motion.
Advantage-While Adams veteran presence will be a help for the young Steelers. Green Bay has everyone on that line healthy that we know of because we know that players will play through the pain.

Receivers
Green Bay-What helps makes a quarterback great is the weapons that he has to throw to. With Aaron Rodgers, he has more than plenty to choose from. Lead by 12 year veteran Donald Driver, this team was one of the best this year in the air ranking them 5th overall in the regular season. While Driver is getting up there in years, he is showing he is like a fine wine and getting better with age. His number one spot has been taken over by Greg Jennings the last couple of season. He had a career year with new highs or trying in yards, yards per catch, touchdowns and longest receptions, so he will be a handful to for the Steelers secondary. Besides those two, they have some younger guys in James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Plus they still have tight end Donald Lee, while even thou he has been quiet in the playoffs; he can help the core with his blocking.
Pittsburgh-Now I said the Packers and Steelers are similar in a lot of aspects and the receiving core for the Steelers is the same. We have the one veteran who has been getting it done for years in Hines Ward. While Ward’s number were down this season, he is still a value for this organization and can step in when needed. The newer guy in Mike Wallace brings the deep ball threat that hasn’t been seen since Plaxico Burress. He had a great second season finishing 3rd in the AFC with yards and was top for with seven 100 yards games and 21 yards per catch. He will also be a handful this game with the Packers secondary. Also the Steelers still have Antwaan Randle El and another young stud in rookie Emannuel Sanders. At tight end Big Ben still has one of his favourite targets in Heath Miller.
Advantage-While this was a tough matchup to pick, I will have the give the edge to the Packers because there have a better depth chart in my mind the Steelers.

Special Teams
Green Bay-with special teams there are so many elements to look over. With their field goal unit, kicker mason Crosby may not be a top five kicker, he is reliable, He made 22-28 in the regular season, and playing in the Midwest, you know the wind can play a factor. On the kick return thou things are not that good, they were ranked in the bottom in both yards and yards per return, but with their offense, they don’t need that big run on either side of the ball. On the defensive side, punter Tim Masthay does not get to go out much so he will not be expected to play too much in the game.
Pittsburgh-With kicker Shawn Suiisham, he has been good for the most part since joining the team after they released Jeff Reed midway through the season. His career % is 80 over his career, but he has been well travelled throughout his career, so that could be saying something. On the punting, Jeremy Kapinos is not used much so he will probably be quiet in this game as well. On kick returns, they do have Randle El on the punting side and can make big plays any where’s because he played qb while in college. He will be seen on kick returns as well where the Steelers can make a big play or two when needed.
Advantage-While the most pressure for special teams is field goals, I will have to go with the Packers. They can change the game with that one play and either be an Adam Vinatieri or a Scott Norward/Ray Finkle for the movie buffs

Secondary
Green Bay-Whenever you think of the Packers secondary, you have to look at one person and that is Charles Woodson. The Michigan Heisman winner is the heart of defensive core and even got a second wind after a rough final two years in Oakland. He was the defensive player of the year last year and he has made the secondary one of the best in the league. They have Tramon Williams on the other side of the corner who has had big playoffs especially with the final pick against the eagles. In the safety position you have Nick Collins and Charlie Pepreh at safety to prevent the deep threat. Plus they have a future star in Sam Shields who has had a good rookie season and a big game against the Bears with two picks, a sack and a force fumble. He will be a great replacement for when Woodson calls it a career. They have an average of only giving up 212 yards in the playoffs and that is good considering when Matt Ryan and Michael Vick were two of three quarterbacks they faced.
Pittsburgh-The only things I have to say about the Steelers backfield on defense is 214.1 and 122.5. That is the average amount of yards they gave up in the regular season and postseason although the postseason stat of 122.5 was against the Jets and Ravens who don’t have elite quarterbacks. Either way we know what Troy Polamalu can do for the team and so does the associated press because he was named defensive player of the year earlier this week. Also with Ryan Clark, he can help in the deep threat. On the corners we have Bryant McFadden and one of the most underrated players in the league in Ike Taylor. While may not get the number of picks as to an Asante Samuel as an example, he is like a Darrelle Revis in which he is good guarding on one man coverage. They do have some depth as well like William Gay and Anthony Madison.
Advantage-Both teams have solid guys all over the secondary and both teams each have a future hall of famer in Woodson and Polamalu. I will give the edge to the Packers because I like the guys coming off the bench more than the Steelers. Note I do have a small bias because Woodson is Wolverine alum.

Linebackers
Green Bay-While Polamalu may have won defensive player of the year, he only beat Clay Matthews by two votes. Matthews came out big this season with 13.5 sacks in his second season. He has also a big help on the line backing core this year and has taken a leadership role. Before the season, the Packers lost Aaron Kampmann to the jaguars and then in week four they lost Nick Barnett for the season so he come on to do what he can to help the Packers get to Dallas. He still hasn’t done it by himself thou, he still has AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop with him in the middle Frank Zombo on the outside. The thumbs up does have to do to Dom Capers. While his head coaching career was not the best, he knows how till run a defense and with all the problems they had this season, he will get some bonus money.
Pittsburgh-The line backing core can be a nightmare for the packers and you have to think that the offensive line will be having nightmares about James Harrison. The former defensive player of the year has made a bigger name for himself this season but with mixed emotions. He has received a number of fines this year that totalled over $200 000. While there was a hit or two that deserved it there were plenty that were not. Ever since the Brady rule came in after 2008 season, you can’t play smash mouth football and that is what Harrison does. He easily could have played with Jack Lambert and the Steel curtain defense of 70’s. He will not care this game and he will do what he can to win this game. He will not be alone. He has James Farrior and LaMair Woodley with him that can also do some damage. They do some good secondary guys with Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons they can come in a special different situations. While they can be a problem for the offensive line they will make sure the Packers running game weaker than it already is.
Advantage-With the way the both teams can hurt you up the middle, Pittsburgh’s guys can have no problem putting someone on a stretcher.

Defensive Line
Green Bay-With the Packers they have a solid front three and can create turnovers when they need to. A prime example was in the NFC championship against the Bears when nose tackle B.J Raji was able to get an interception and score the game winning touchdown to get them to Dallas. They do have some solid guys like Ryan Pickett, Cullen Jenkins on the starting line and have C.J Wilson on the bench if one of the guys would go down. They can have a big game because of the injuries on the Steelers offensive line and have only given up 69 yards a game in the postseason.
Pittsburgh-While the names on the Steelers front three may not be household names in the NFL. They can get the job done. While they may have not gotten the sacks, they sure as hell can stop the run. During the regular season, the Steelers held opponents to fewer than 65 rushing yards per game and only letting Patriots running back Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis gain over 87 yards. There hasn’t been much difference in the playoffs as they have just allowed only just over 52 yards a game. That is impressive when you’re facing the like of the Ravens and the Jets. This front three this season will go down as one with the 2000 Ravens and the 85 Bears for the best run defense of all time. Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel will lead the way and force Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball a lot on Sunday.
Advantage-I don’t even have to explain why the Steelers are better.

Final outcome-While breaking everything down I think we are going to see a tight defensive game. I think the Packers will get some turnovers over a weak Steelers offensive line and win the game 23-20 and cover the spread.

Derek Leblanc lives in Halifax and covers Mixed Martial Arts for Topmmanews.com.

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