Here we are and here we go. One more win and the Steelers capture their 7th championship, but to do so they must get past another storied and classy franchise in the Green Bay Packers. The Packers deserve to be in this game and have made the run as the 6th seed much like the Steelers did back in 2005. The Packers have an offense that can go vertical through the air and strike with the big play behind the arm of Aaron Rodgers. The Steelers 2010 defense has been consistent all year, and very strong against the run. The Packers coaching staff is also littered with several former Steelers players and coaches which is refreshing. This should be a great Super Bowl to watch. Below are what we deem to be 7 keys to the game for the Steelers to beat the Packers to win Super Bowl XLV.
Blitzers & Hitters - Rodgers is a fantastic quarterback especially against pressure and blitzes. On the flip side, the Steelers can not just sit back and let him throw uncontested because of that. Dick LeBeau will need to time the blitzes perfectly and when a blitz is called, they must get to Rodgers and at the very least get hits on him if they can not get the sack. Hits and pressures on a quarterback early can make big differences as the game goes on and can force Rodgers into making a throw he does not want to make. LaMarr Woodley and Ziggy Hood must feast on rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga and Brett Keisel and James Harrison must team to attack the vulnerable left tackle Chad Clifton.
Adams Family - If there is one player that must have a great game on the offensive line, it is Flozell Adams. Many want to point to Doug Legursky, but Adams perhaps holds the biggest key to the running game as the Steelers love to run to right side. Adams will be relied on to seal the edge and turn his man inside or outside on the trap runs. In addition to the running game, which must have some success on Sunday, Adams often times will be the one counted on to control outside linebacker Clay Matthews in pass protection. Matthews has speed, strength and is very athletic, just the type of player that gives Adams fits. A weakness of Matthews is stopping the run and the more off balance he is, the better for the Steelers offense. Should the Steelers get behind, Matthews could have a big game as he will be allowed to pin his ears back and just rush the passer. Adams can not rely on constant help; he must win most of the one-on-one battles for the Steelers to win.
Wrap Up Quick No YAC - The Steelers are likely to give up the underneath stuff and the Steelers must wrap up pass catchers quick as they have all year long. They have been excellent at not only not giving up the big play over 20 yards this year and only gave up 15 throwing touchdowns in the regular season as well. They also have been good about not giving up much YAC. (yards after the catch) The Packers want to attack down field with their vertical passing game and can turn a 10 yard slant or simple post into a 60 yard touchdown real quick. The same goes for the running backs out of the backfield on screens. The corners and linebackers must fight through the blocks and wrap up and tackle. James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons will be tested several times in the short area underneath.
Cheese Turnovers - It sounds so simple to boil a big game down to turnovers, but I showed earlier in the week that if a team wins the turnover battle in the Super Bowl they are 31-3 in those games. The Steelers defense best shot at getting a turnover is likely by way of fumble and they must always be looking to put a helmet on the ball and look to rip it out from the running back or receiver. Look for Troy Polamalu to also be given permission to free lance on a blitz or two or guess on a route and pick one of Rodgers baited throws off. I think turnovers can and will play a huge part in this game and the Steelers must protect the ball on offense. The Steelers can not give the Packers offense a short field to work on, the offense is just too potent.
Ball Spread - The Packers will likely do as the Jets and Ravens did and try to take away speedy receiver Mike Wallace from beating them deep. That means a corner with safety help over top. Ben Roethlisberger will be forced to spread the ball around to Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. Also the screen pass check down to running back Rashard Mendenhall should be there as well when the Packers are concerned with dropping more into coverage. I look for Miller and Mendenhall to play key roles in this game as the Packers know how capable the Steelers receiving core is. I look for 9 or even 10 different players to have at least one catch in this game for the Steelers if they are to win.
Dare To Run For 77 - Many experts think the Packers do not have to be able to run the ball in order to win. In the 5 games this year that they rushed for 77 yards or less, they are 1-4. In all 3 playoff games thus far the Packers have rushed for 354 yards and it has helped them sell play action in the process and freeze the linebackers which in turn gives space down the middle of the field to fit passes to a crossing receiver in uncontested areas of the field. The Steelers must stop the run with the minimum base unit up front on 1st downs and force the Packers into predictable passing downs on 2nd and 3rd downs. If the Packers have any success running the ball, it will make a long day for the Steelers defense and allow the Packers to dictate the flow and keep the defense off balance.
Play Keep Away & Slow It Down - Rodgers can not beat you if he is on the sidelines. If the Steelers can shorten the game with at least 2 long drives, it will help wear down the Packers defense in the process and more importantly keep Rodgers on the sideline. The last thing the Steelers want to do is to get into a shootout with the Packers. A low scoring grind it out game goes against everything the Packers like to do and plays into the favor of the Steelers. It could cause Rodgers to get impatient if he thinks he might not get the ball back. This plays back into turnovers I listed earlier.
Steelers Packers Game Prediction - This should be a nail biter for both sides and a great game. The Steelers have 25 players with Super Bowl game experience versus just 2 for the Packers. This could cause some jitters early on for the Packers and perhaps even a turnover. The Steelers should be able to run on the Packers and need to if they expect to win. On the flip side, I think LeBeau has had plenty of time to find ways to get pressure on Rodgers and get to him for a few sacks. If they can\'t, Rodgers will have a big day and will get the MVP award afterwards. In the end, I think the Packers will be able to move the ball, but the Steelers will hold them to several field goals. I see the Packers with the lead in the 4th quarter and Roethlisberger moving the Steelers downfield for the go ahead touchdown to Miller. The defense will have to come up big on the final Packers drive and I think they will. This one comes down to a Packers stalling in the Steelers redzone and the Steelers win. Same score as Super Bowl XLIII.
Final Score: Steelers 27 Packers 23