It’s been a long journey for the Pittsburgh Steelers. From a suspended QB to losing their Pro Bowl Center for the biggest game of the year and everything in between, the Steelers have made it again to the biggest stage here in Dallas. The atmosphere is electric in the city, and while the snow and ice has put somewhat of a damper on the week, the bottom line is it’s Super Bowl Sunday, and the game will go on.
The Steelers are coming in as slight underdogs to the red-hot Packers, who ran through the Eagles, Falcons and Bears to get to this point. They have a sizzling QB in Aaron Rodgers, and a defense led by Clay Matthews Jr. that is playing very well at the same time.
So with everything on the line, here we go with my final pick of the season, and why I think it’s going to go the way it is come Sunday evening at the home Jerry Jones built.
1. Pressure – It’s been the buzz word of the week in Dallas, but not just for the reason everyone thinks. First, the Steelers have to get to Aaron Rodgers, and when they can and do, get him down. Rodgers can run, and has shown that in the past, and the Steelers cannot afford to let him escape their clutches. There’s also plenty of pressure that goes along with playing a game in front of 100-thousand people, and millions worldwide on a big stage. The Steelers have been here, the Packers have not. That is a clear advantage for the black and gold, and one that should help them get off to a good start against a Packers team that could have butterflies.
2. Tempo – Clearly the Packers have no intentions of running the ball Sunday night. They have a nice little story in the postseason in James Starks, but no one runs on the Steelers D. They want to make this a track meet, with plenty of points and going up and down the field. The Steelers on the other hand do have an established back in Rashard Mendenhall, and he can control the tempo with good yards on first and second down to set up third and short. Against the Jets, the Steelers held the ball for over half the first quarter in going up 7-0, and that’s the same type of game they want vs the Pack. The Steelers have no problem winning this game 20-17, while the Pack want this to be more of a 30-27 game and one where there’s plenty of big plays all over the field.
3. Big Plays at Big Times – That’s what the Super Bowl is all about. You don’t remember the grunt work that gets teams there, you remember players and plays that win the games. Last year it was the onside kick, two years ago the INT by James Harrison, so on and so forth. The Steelers have a couple guys who can make those big plays – Mike Wallace, Harrison, Troy Polamalu. Green Bay has the likes of Greg Jennings, Rodgers, and Matthews. The question will basically be, what players step up in the biggest game of their lives to make the big plays when it’s all on the line. Don’t be shocked as well if a guy like Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders gets a shot at a big play as well.
Prediction – Quite frankly the Steelers are due to lose a game like today. They played not to lose in the second half vs the Jets, and were two touchdowns down vs the Ravens in the divisional game. With that though, all the stats, numbers and matchups can be thrown out the window. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare, and it’s tough to go against Dick LeBeau and the Steelers D on the biggest stage with a number of playmakers that we didn’t even mention like LaMarr Woodley and Ryan Clark. Green Bay will spread the field and try to make it a track meet, but they are no considering the speed the Steelers will counter with in terms of getting to Rodgers to force a few mistakes. Remember Ben Roethlisberger’s first Super Bowl? Awful. I’m not saying that Rodgers will have that type of day by any means, but at the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers get him to have a few bad plays that could decide the outcome.
It’s been one heck of a ride for the Steelers, and while it wasn’t the smoothest way to find their 7th Lombardi, I truly think that once again the city of Pittsburgh will have a parade. Rashard Mendenhall goes for a 110 yards with a score and is the MVP, Roethlisberger had a solid day, and the defense rises up with the game on the line to stop Rodgers and the Pack. Steelers 23 Packers 17