Author: Ryan Graff, Staff Writer
Shaun Suisham and Mason Crosby. Unless you’re a diehard football fan, these two names are probably meaningless. But, on February 6, one of these men will have the opportunity to accomplish something that millions can merely dream about: kicking-off to start the Super Bowl. When the right foot of either Suisham or Crosby touches the ball, thousands of light bulbs will flash throughout Cowboys Stadium, and the epic W/C clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will ensue.
Despite entering the playoffs as a wild card team, Green Bay had an impressive run in the postseason. Fresh off a road victory against their NFC North rival Chicago Bears, they look to capitalize on their recent momentum. Across the field will stand the AFC Champion Steelers, who edged out the Jets to earn a trip to Arlington, Texas to play for what could be their seventh franchise Super Bowl victory.
Led by Mike Tomlin, the National Football League’s youngest head coach, the Steelers posted an impressive 12-4 regular season record. While this is slightly better than the Packers’ 10-6 record, both teams have their respective strengths.
Historically, the Steelers have a physical and dominant defense. This year is no exception. Pittsburgh boasts the number two-ranked defense in the NFL, with 48 regular season sacks and only 276.8 yards per game allowed. Nose tackle Casey Hampton anchors the unit up front, while strong safety Troy Polamalu is best recognized for his speed and hustle in the secondary. Linebackers James Harrison, James Farrior, and Lawrence Timmons lead the charge in the middle with over 100 tackles each on the season.
The Packers are no slackers on defense either. They finished the regular season ranked number five in overall defense with 47 sacks and an average of 309.1 yards allowed. Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson posted 76 solo tackles while linebackers AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop had 111 and 103 tackles, respectively. The young linebacker Clay Matthews led the pass rush with an impressive 13.5 sacks on the campaign.
Offensively, the numbers seem slightly skewed because Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games of the season due to legal allegations. However, Roethlisberger was still able to post a 97 passer rating while completing 61.7 percent of his passes on his way to a 3,200-yard season. Rashard Mendenhall led the ground game with 1,273 yards rushing on 324 carries. Roethlisberger’s three favorite targets this season were receivers Mike Wallace and Hines Ward as well as tight end Heath Miller. All three players had over 40 receptions and over 500 yards this year. The only drawback will be the loss of rookie center Maurkice Pouncey who injured his ankle in the AFC Championship game. Doug Legursky, a rookie center out of Marshall, will replace him. This might pose some problems for the Steelers, as Legursky will have a hard time matching up with the likes of Clay Matthews and nose tackle BJ Raji.
The Packers have had a remarkable season on offense to say the least. NEEDS BETTER TRANSITION Quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted a 101.2 passer rating with the fifth best league average of 257.8 yards per game. He racked up almost 4,000 yards on the season while completing 65.7 percent of his passes. He also ran for 356 yards this season, second to only starting running back, Brandon Jackson, who ran for 703 yards on 190 carries. Full back John Kuhn, who ran for 284 yards this year, is becoming a popular target for Rodgers in the flats and also a solid short yardage back. Receivers Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson all caught over 40 passes for over 500 yards each. Veteran left tackle Chad Clifton and NFC Rookie of the Year right tackle Bryan Bulaga lead the offensive line.
According to ESPN, the Steelers will enter the big game favored by 2.5 points and the over/under has been set at 44.5 points. This is no surprise since both teams appear to be so evenly matched. With a combined eight Pro Bowl selections, this game will be a shootout W/C until the bitter end. REPHRASE As far as a prediction goes, I will take the over and choose the underdog Green Bay Packers in a 27-20 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Aaron Rodgers will aptly get his glory as the second Packer quarterback to win a Super Bowl on the eve of Brett Favre’s retirement.
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