Yesterday I outlined the keys to Green Bay winning Super Bowl XLV. Read it here.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the Super Bowl. Great. As a Cleveland Browns fan, this sickens me. I can’t lie though. As a football fan I’m impressed. The Steelers are reaching dynasty status for the second time in 40 years. The Steelers of the 70’s won four Super Bowls. This incarnation is on the verge of their third making it seven overall for the most well run franchise in all of professional sports. There, I said it. I admit it. The Steelers are impressive. Now I’m going to go throw up.
So how do the Steelers win Super Bowl XLV?
The Steelers will win Super Bowl XLV if they do one simple thing. Play Steelers football. That means pounding the ball on the ground and playing hard-nosed defense. Call me crazy, but I don’t think either of those will be much of a problem. The Steelers pride themselves on their ability to run the football and get after the quarterback. It’s who they are… It’s in their DNA.
The running game for Pittsburgh helps set up everything they do on offense. With Rashard Mendenhall, they have a very talented back who has the ability to both pound the ball inside between the tackle and get to the outside. He demonstrated both in Pittsburgh’s first half throttling of the Jets n the AFC Championship game and finished with 121 yards overall. Can he do the same thing against the Packers? I think the answer is yes and quite honestly he’ll need to. The Packers have a very talented defense and Mendenhall’s effectiveness will help create a balanced attack and in the process will help set up the passing game for Roethlisberger.
Mendenhall’s ability to be effective as a receiver out of the backfield could also cause issues for the Packers. Once the play breaks down, and they will given the attacking nature of Green Bay’s defense, Roethlisberger can use Mendenhall as an effective fail safe. Of course, Mendenhall won’t be the only option. The Steelers wide receivers show an incredible ability to improvise. Time and time again we have witnessed Ben Roethlisberger running for his life, seemingly dead in the water, only to stay alive for an extra second and connect down field with Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, or tight end Heath Miller for 25 yards and a first down. The Steelers excel through chaos. The Packers defense prides itself on creating chaos….uh oh.
It’s inevitable that Roethlisberger is going to make a big play when the Steelers need it. That’s what he does. Say what you will about his personal life and all of his transgressions. The fact of the matter is that Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best football players we have ever seen. Sure his stats aren’t up there with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Brew Brees, but the fact of the matter is that he already has more rings than either Manning or Brees and after Sunday he could have just as many as Brady… and he’s only 28. He has a lot of football left to play. Rather than bashing him for anything and everything imaginable, people should enjoy him for what he is… an incredible quarterback. Yes I hate him because he’s a Steeler, but I can’t take anything away from his on field performance. On Sunday he’ll probably have a typical Roethlisberger performance. He won’t throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns, but he’ll avoid the big mistake, he’ll lead his team, and he will make 2 or 3 of the game’s signature plays. It’s these broken plays that break the will of the opposition.
Defensively, the Steelers are scary. They intimidate, they beat people up, they inflict pain. That is the name of the game for the Steelers and it has been through out their history. Look down the line of great Steeler defenses and they are full of the same type of players. Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland, Joey Porter, Jason Gildon, do I need to keep going? That’s tradition in every sense of the word. Becoming a Steelers linebacker is like a right of passage. Every time one steps down another is ready to step right in and take its place. It’s that sense of tradition that has led to the current state of the Steelers linebacking core.
Led by the terrifyingly tough-minded James Harrison, the Steelers linebackers are a force. Along with Harrison, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, and Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers defense punishes the opposition. They don’t give up rushing yards, plain and simple. Green Bay will attack with James Starks, but the Steelers should have no problem shutting him down. The Packers have been one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL this season and may very well abandon the run quickly. That may play right into the hands of Dick LeBeau. By forcing the Packers to become a one-dimensional passing team, LeBeau can crank up the pressure and start sending blitzes from every which way.
If the Steelers can put pressure on Aaron Rodgers and force him into difficult throws and mistakes they will win the game. Rodgers has been the hottest player in football since about week 14. Allowing him to drop back and dink and dunk them with quick slants and screen passes only to follow those up with an occassional deep ball would be disastrous. They need to hit him early and they need to hit him hard right in the mouth. Doing so puts Rodgers on red alert an causes him to rush his progressions and force throws. And of course, if the Steelers front seven can force Rodgers into making mistakes, we all know who will be sitting back in the secondary waiting to take advantage. Yep, Troy Polamalu.
For all that is said about the linebackers, it’s Polamalu who is the leader of the Steelers defense. He’s their playmaker and most often is in the middle of every big defensive play for Pittsburgh. He also has a knack for making the critical play when the Steelers need it. Whether it be a strip sack fumble, interception, or timing the snap perfectly and leaping over the line of scrimmage to sack the quarterback, Polamalu is always involved. On Sunday he’ll need to get involved early and often and cause problems for Green Bay’s high-powered passing game. Dick LeBeau is a defensive genius so that shouldn’t be a problem. He’ll find a creative way to send Polamalu on blitzes and make life hell for Aaron Rodgers.
So when you get down to it, what exactly do the Steelers need to do to win the game. It’s simple.
- Dominate the line of scrimmage and pound the ball with Rashard Mendenhall.
- Win the broken plays.
- Inflict pain on defense.
If the Steelers can do these three things, they’ll be successful on Sunday. They’ll be crowned champions of Super Bowl XLV and for the seventh time they’ll get up on the podium and raise the Lombardi Trophy. Once again they will prove that they are one of the best run franchises not just in the NFL, but in all of sports…
And once again everyone in Cleveland will want to vomit.