Super Bowl XLV Preview: Steelers – Packers

Red-Hot QB Aaron Rodgers will lead the Green Bay Packers versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.  The Packers will be seeking an NFL-record 13th title

The 2010-11 NFL season will finish it’s oh-too-fast season with Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas as the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4) and Green Bay Packers (13-6) take center stage in the biggest game in sports. It will be interesting to see if Super Bowl XLV ends the ’10 season with a bang or a blowout, which seems to have happened way too much in Super Bowl history.  All week, the Dallas-Ft. Worth region has been covered in uncharacteristic ice, but you can expect the temperatures around the country and in Cowboys Stadium to be “hot” this Sunday. 

“Super Bowl Sunday” is America’s unofficial holiday filled with fellowship, trash talk, and of course eating.  Everywhere you turn, people are talking about the Steelers and Packers locking horns this Sunday.  Even my 80-year old plus grandmother, who usually is not in front of the television on Sunday’s watching NFL gridiron action, will be attending a Super Bowl party.  She and an expected record television audience of 106 Million plus viewers will be watching this Sunday as the Steelers and Packers take center stage.  But no matter how Super Bowl XLV ends, the 2010 NFL Season should be titled, “One Crazy Season”. 

Sure some will boast that their crystal ball registered this match-up in Super Bowl way back in September — hey what do I know… I picked a match-up of the Ravens over the Cowboys. But majority of folks probably were second-guessing both the NFC and AFC representative teams going into the season., especially around the quarterbacks in the game.  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was mired in a rocky offseason that led to a 6-game suspension (reduced to 4 games) and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, after a loss in his first playoff start in the 2009 Wildcard Round to the Cardinals, was still stuck in the lengthy shadow of former Green Bay legendary passer Brett Favre. But none the less, both teams and their quaterbacks continued on and now they are on the appex of winning the biggest trophy in team sports, the Lomabardi Trophy.

The majority of fans and media that I have talked to are more than happy and excited to see the two teams that will be meeting in the Big Game.  So expected or unexpected, this is the game that the parity-laden National Football League has handed us for Super Bowl Sunday 2011 (February 6th).  I for one am very excited to see this match-up of two of the NFL’s most-storied franchises and a good portion of the country is also excited as Super Bowl hype is at an all-time high. Especially with the threat of potential CBA-Armadegon and “No Football” after March 4th looming over the heads NFL Universe. ESPN Anlayst Tom Jackson said of the match-up, “We have two of the best teams in the league playing really good football, and we’re thinking that we’re ready to see a pretty darn good football game.”

Once the Conference Championships games were completed with the Steelers 24-19 win over the New York Jets and the Packers 21-14 win over the Chicago Bears, everyone tried to come up with a catchy Don King-esque box office selling theme for Super Bowl XLV.  Some slogans that I have heard bantered about have been “The Tradition Bowl”, “The Golden Game”, “The Dynasty Bowl”, “Lombardi vs. Lambert”, and many others.  But I am going with the “The NFL’s Royalty Rumble”  — BTW: Whatever happened to great titles like the “Thrilla in Manila” and the “Rumble in the Jungle”.   All of the current themes that I have pointed out all touch on the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packer are two of the NFL’s most revered and respected franchises.  Between them these two teams are draped in tradition and have combines for 19 NFL Championships including 9 Super Bowl titles.

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell said of the match-up at his recent yearly Super Bowl press conference, “When you look at this match-up, you say ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’ and ‘Green Bay Packers,’ that’s football. There’s no doubt about it, that’s football”.  Goodell added, “These great organizations who have had so much success in the past, it represents the traditions of our game. The fans are tremendous in both of these communities. I lived in western Pennsylvania for five years and those fans, there aren’t any better fans than Steeler fans. Then you look at the Packer fans and they’re the same way. Tremendous passion, they support their team through thick and thin, and it means a lot to these communities. And they’re both national teams. This isn’t just about fans in western Pennsylvania or in Wisconsin, they have national followings, and I think that’s what’s so exciting for this country and our world, to look at this game and say, ‘Wow, that’s real football.’ This is fun. This is celebrating the game that I love and we all love and I think it’s going to be a terrific night.”

The Green Bay Packers are the NFL’s second oldest franchise and are a testament to how the league continuing to thrive in a small-market during the “Big Market” glitz of today’s  media bonanza society.  When you think of the Packers – all-tme record of 664-524-36 in regular season with a league-best postseason record of 28-16 in 44 games — names like Hall of Famers Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Reggie White and Willie Davis instantly come to mind along with that quarterback,No. 4, and the “Frozen Tundra” playing surface at historic Lambeau Field.  Though the Packers have not had the recent “Championship” success like Lombardi’s group from the 1960’s, a new generation of Green Bay players, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, have returned some swagger back to “Title Town”.  Green Bay will be returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since back-to-back appearances in Super Bowl XXXI (January 26, 1997) and XXXII (January 25, 1998).  And Green Bay will attempting to extend their league record NFL Championship number to 13.

The Steelers going back to their inception in 1933 were built by the late Art Rooney, one of the original patriarchs of the NFL, to be a franchise as tough as the blue collar City of Steel that they represent.  And now they are aiming to become the first NFL team in history to win seven Super Bowl titles.  The Steelers all-time record is 541-499-20 with a league-second-best postseason record 33-19 in fifty-one games and they will be making their eighth Super Bowl appearance, tying the Dallas Cowboys for the most all-time. Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney said of the challenge of facing Green Bay in the Super Bowl, “We’re very similar organizations.  We’re similar in the way we operate.  We have great respect for the Packers and we always have.” And the connection continues as the Packers are the first No. 6 seed in the NFC to advance to the Super Bowl since the NFL instituted the current 12-team playoff format in 1990.  The only other No. 6 seed to play in the Super Bowl was the 2005 Steelers, who went on to win Super Bowl XL. 

Ironically Pittsburgh “Home Boy”, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, who grew-up in the town and was a former assistant coach for four seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, will be leading the opposition.  McCarthy (guided Packers to playoffs in 3 of last 4 seasons) said of facing his hometown team, “Pittsburgh is obviously a big part of who I am.  My family is still back there.  This is going to be a very unique experience for everybody.  I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan growing up and they’re my second favorite team.  But we’re preparing to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a football game and that’s what we need to stay focused on.  McCarthy added, “They’re an excellent football team, obviously.  They’ve had a lot of success.  They’re a veteran team and an experienced team.  They’ve been through this experience before and we have not.  We understand that.  But we’re going to stick to our approach and that’s the way we’re going to face it.  Our goal is to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home.”

So enough already with the continually beaten same-old-tired story that many are selling that one team belongs here and the other is just lucky No. 6 seed.  I believe like many Steelers players, who vividly remember last year’s shootout win over the Packers, that McCarthy’s team is a hungry bunch and that should be respected.  Remember that anything that could happen has happened in this crazy 2010 season where “Any Given Sunday” has rung true week in and week out.  Forget franchise histories, Super Bowl XLV should have the moniker, “The Battle of Teams That Do It the Right Way”.  Plain and simple it is a match-up of two teams that are models for NFL success.  However if I were the Steelers, I would do as Chuck D used to rap “Don’t Believe the Hype”, because the former 10-6 Wilcard Packers have been one of the NFL’s hottest teams since the playoffs started. The key for both remaining teams is focusing on their precious opportunity to win a Super Bowl and forgetting everything else that has transpired in the past 20 weeks leading up to the big game.  

Lloyd’s Leftovers for Super Bowl XLV

Being #1 Seed is not what it used to be – Remember when attaining the No. 1 seed in your conference and home field advantage used to mean something back in the day.  But in today’s parity-laden NFL there are no guarantees to Super Bowl entry and this year is no different as the Patriots and Falcons were out in the divisional round.  Since 1990 only 20 of 40 number one seeds in the playoffs have made it to the Super Bowl with only 9 of those teams winning it all.  The last time two No. 1 seeds faced off was in Super Bowl XLIV (2010) with Indianapolis vs. New Orleans.

Not much Trash Talking at this Super Bowl – With the mutual respect between the Steelers and Packers there has not been the obligatory player trash talking. Remember in Super Bowl XL how then Seattle Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens made some comments about Steelers that got the dander up of then Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.  This time both teams were complimentary and guarded during media day interviews.  Too bad Porter is no longer on the Steelers, because he is always a good for a rousing soundbite. 

Still watch for everyone’s favorite Super Bowl Ads – Every year one of the bigger events of the Super Bowl is watching the ads.  Thirty-second spots during Super Bowl XLV were sold for $2.8-$3 million.  Of course the king of the advertisers, Budweiser, will be all over your television — exclusive beer advertiser for 23 years.  Bud earlier this postseason locked up its position as the only national beer advertiser in the Super Bowl through 2014. “We wouldn’t have done it if the payoff wasn’t there,” said Anheuser-Busch President Dave Peacock.  For everything to do with Super Bowl XLV’s Ads go to

Media folks swapping more than stories – Former Super Bowl MVP’s, ESPN analyst Desmond Howard and former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, got into it over comments Howard made about Simms’ son.  For all of Twitter Nation to read, Howard tweeted that Simms said “he wanted 2 take a swing at me” while the two were at the NFL Experience fan festival in downtown Dallas.  Also there was a Philly Twitter Beef between Daily News Writer Paul Domowitch and Radio Personality Howard Eskin over some quotes

Tomlin going for some history — Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, who guided the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl XLIII, can become the first head coach in NFL history to win two Super Bowls in his first four seasons.  He is also can become the youngest head coach in league annals to win two Super Bowl titles (38 years old).  And another milestone that no one is talking about –Thankfully – is that Tomlin could once again join NFL legend Tony Dungy as the only African-American head coaches to lead their team to a Super Bowl victory.  Of all the potential accomplishments surrounding Super Bowl XLV, Tomlin said “It’s special.  There are 32 teams that start this journey and there are only two left.  We are fortunate enough to be one of them.  It’s awesome.”

Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4) Vs. Green Bay Packers (13-6), Sunday 6:30 PM, FOX

Broadcasting Team: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Chris Myers (Field Reporter) and Pam Oliver (Field Reporter)

The AFC #2 seeded Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFC #6 seeded Green Bay Packers will square off in Super Bowl XLV in Cowboys Stadium and though this may have not been the match-up that everyone had hoped for, I fully expect a good game. 

 The big story going into Super Bowl XLV has been two “hot” quarterbacks squaring off with the Packers led by former Pro Bowler Aaron Rodgers and the Steelers going with Super Bowl XL and XLIII winner Ben Roethlisberger.  In the last meeting between these two teams (December 20, 2009), Roethlisberger (503 yards) and Aaron Rodgers (383) combined for 886 passing yards in the Steelers’ 37-36 win over the Packers.  It marked the highest passing yardage total in NFL history in a game that did not have an interception. 

But the story of the game to me is a classic match-up of the Steelers NFL top-ranked defense versus the Packers high-powered offense.  Though the usual line is “Defense Wins Championships”, you definitely have to go deeper into this match-up than to immediately dismiss the Packers and hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Steelers.  Like any playoff game, the Super Bowl will be won or lost with keys — Strong Quarterback Play (i.e. Taking Care of the Football), Good Attacking Defense, a Balanced Offensive Attack based first in the Run, Sound Special Teams Play, and Limiting Penalties.  So far in the playoffs the Steelers and Packers have lived by the keys mentioned especially running the football.  The Packers have even unveiled rookie James Starks and the Steelers after a year of passing the ball have rooted to their roots as RB Rashard Mendenhall has been running the rock.  The two teams have also lived off turnovers, which we know are instant game turners — turnover margin has been good to the Steelers (+17) and the Cardinals (+10) . 

The Packers are always looking for the big down-the-field play, so the Steelers must stay with their coverage assignments and get pressure on Rodgers. Conversely the Packers will need to continue to mix the run and pass to keep the Steelers attacking defense off-balance. The Steelers — just 14.5 points per game — have done a great job on defense so far this season.   But Rodgers when given time has weapons in receivers Gregg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones. 

The Steelers front seven led by former Defensive MVP James Harrison, stout nose tackle Casey Hampton, and probably the NFL’s most athletic linebacking crew (James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, Lamarr Woodley, and Harrison) will need to get pressure so that big play safety Troy Polamulu (2010 NFL Defensive MVP) can make another game changing play.  Pressure is everything to the Steelers, but Jennings is capable of having a huge day so the Steelers will need 22 eyes on him at all times.   Watch for the Steelers’ veteran secondary led by cornerback Ike Taylor and unsung free safety Ryan Clark to help Polamulu in coverage.   The one thing LeBeau (king of the zone blitz) will need to guard against is getting too blitz happy against Rodgers.  As the young triggerman is very dangerous and can recognize defensive schemes and will audible when needed.  

Watch for an improving Packers’ “D”, who were 2nd in total defense during the regular season. The Packer defense led by LB Clay Matthews Jr has thrived on forcing pressure and creating turnovers.  The Packers will need to get to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, so that the he can’t get the ball to Hines Ward and game-changer Mike Wallace.  The Packers will also need to keep an eye on my X-factor, Steelers tight end Heath Miller.

“We’ve got a lot of talent on this team,” said Packers CB Charles Woodson.  He added, “Every week, it’s somebody else stepping up.  The guys on this team have been making plays week in and week out.  We have a ton of guys who can just make plays at any time and at any point in the game.  We know how hard it is to get to the Super Bowl.  You want to be able to get there and win it.  It’s all or nothing now.  Hopefully we can go down there and win it.”

LV’s Pick: Now that all of the hype and talk around Super Bowl XLV is almost finished our attentions can turn to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.  The Steelers have been installed as a slight favorite, but I truly believe that the Packers will make this a game.  I expect the Steelers to dictate the pace of the game early with efficient passing by Big Ben, hard running by Mendenhall, and their attacking defense.  But Rodgers and Jennings will hook-up for a Super Bowl moment and they may even temporarily throw a scare into the Steelers.  But in the end, the Steelers Black-and-Gold nation will leave Dallas happy as the Steelers veterans from Super Bowl XL and XLIII will step up.  The Steelers add another one for their second hand and watch for Hines Ward, Heath Miller, and Troy Polamulu as the difference makers for P-Burgh. — Steelers 27, Packers 24 



Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)