Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers: Super Bowl XLV Pre-Game Analysis

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers are meeting in Dallas Stadium for the Super Bowl in about a week.  In the meantime, their respective teams can get some rest and perhaps recover some of those who may have been injured in their conference playoff games.  The Pittsburgh Steelers against the New York Jets was a physical game, and the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears was just as physical, if not more.  For the Steelers game, their defense and their running game with Rashard Mendenhall broke the Jets backs.  And for the Green Bay Packers team, their defense and the combination of Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings won their game.

Now to the pre-game analysis of the Super Bowl:

Quarterbacks

Neither quarterback was particularly impressive in their last conference championship game.  The Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger had 133 yards passing, 2 interceptions and a 35.5 quarterback rating against the New York Jets; and, the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers had 244 yards, 2 interceptions and 55.4 quarterback rating against the Chicago Bears. However, in the post-season, Aaron Rodgers is currently ranked 1st in quarterback rating at 109.2 while Ben Roethlisberger is ranked 10th with an overall quarterback rating of 75.5. During the regular season, Aaron Rodgers was similarly more effective than Ben Roethlisberger. Aaron Rodgers had 3,922 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and overall quarterback rating of 101.2, which was 3rd overall rating during the regular season.  On the other side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and an overall quarterback rating of 97.0, which was 5th overall during the regular season.  Given these statistics, the edge goes to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by a moderate margin.  As of this time though, Rodgers is battling a sore shoulder during a hit that occurred during his game with the Chicago Bears. It shouldn’t change things though, unless he suffers another concussion.

Running Backs

Pittsburgh Steelers primary running back Rashard Mendenhall went on a tear against the New York Jets, rushing 121 yards, 2 touchdowns and 4.5 yards per carry.  Presently, in the post-season, Mendenhall is ranked 3rd in rushing yardage, has 3 touchdowns and averaging 3.6 yards per attempt.  Mendenhall was equally impressive during the regular season, as he was ranked 7th overall in rushing yardage. He had 1,273 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. His reliever Isaac Redman contributed 247 yards during the regular season and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. On the opposite side of the ball, the previously third option James Starks of the Green Bay Packers has risen in the post-season.  He is currently ranked 1st overall in rushing yardage with 263 yards rushing, a touchdown and averaging 3.8 yards per attempt in the post-season.  During the regular season, however, he had a meager 101 yards rushing and averaged 3.5 yards per carry.  His reliever, now former starter Brandon Jackson, has only 28 yards during the post-season, but he’s become more of a wide receiver during these playoffs. During the regular season, Jackson had 703 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns, averaged 3.7 yards per attempt and ranked 33rd overall.  Rashard Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh Steelers get the edge on this one by a wide margin, if Steelers coach Mike Tomlin sticks with his present gameplan.

Wide Receivers

This is one interesting battle.  Starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, their receiving duo consists of Mike Wallace and Hines Ward. Mike Wallace of the Steelers was impressive during the regular season, racking up 1,257 yards receiving, 1o touchdowns and averaged 21.0 yards per reception.  He was ranked 5th overall in receiving yardage overall during the regular season, but in the post-season, he hasn’t made an impact yet. Meanwhile, Hines Ward had 755 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.  With the Green Bay Packers, the tandem of Greg Jennings and James Jones were originally the pair to be reckoned with during the regular season, but Jordy Nelson has replaced James Jones as the second wide receiver threat during the playoffs.  Greg Jennings, however, is currently ranked 1st overall in the post-season with 239 yards receiving and averaging 14.1 yards per reception. During the regular season, Jennings was equally impressive.  He had 1,265 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, averaged 16.6 yards per reception and was ranked 4th overall in receiving yards during the regular season.  Comparatively, during the regular season, James Jones had 679 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 13.6 yards per reception, and Jordy Nelson 582 yards, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.9 yards per reception.  During the post-season, however, Jordy Nelson currently has 146 yards, a touchdown, averaging 12.2 yards per reception and is currently ranked 5th overall in receiving yardage.  Suffice it to say, the Green Bay Packers wide receiving corps is much more of a threat than the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Packers get the edge.

Tight Ends

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller has maintained himself as a consistent threat into the post-season, with 77 yards receiving, a touchdown and is currently ranked 19th overall in receiving yardage.  During the regular season, he had 512 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception. On the Green Bay side of the ball, Andrew Quarless or Donald Lee have not been much of a factor during the regular season or the post-season. During the regular season, Quarless had 238 yards receiving, a touchdown and averaged 11.3 yards per reception.  And Lee had 73 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per reception. Heath Miller and the Pittsburgh Steelers get the edge on this one by sufficient margin.

Defenses

Both of these defenses have been the difference maker during nearly all the post-season games that they have played.  During the regular season, the Steelers defense was ranked 12th against the pass, 1st against the run and 2nd overall in the league.  Their playmakers were many.  During the regular season, Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons recorded 135 tackles and was ranked 8th overall. Safety Troy Polamalu recorded 7 interceptions during the regular season and was ranked 3rd overall in the league. To date, Lawrence Timmons has 19 sacks and is 4th overall in the post-season. Linebacker James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers have contributed 3 sacks in the playoffs and is currently ranked 3rd overall. During the regular season, the Green Bay Packers defense was ranked 5th against the pass, 18th against the rush and 5th overall.  Linebacker Clay Matthews was ranked 3rd overall in sacks with 13.5 by the end of the regular season, and cornerback Tramon Williams had 6 interceptions and was ranked 5th overall in interceptions.  Both of these defensive backs have maintained their momentum into the playoffs.  Clay Matthews recorded 3.5 sacks to his name and is ranked 2nd overall currently in sacks.  And Tramon Williams is ranked 1st with 3 interceptions in the post-season with his fellow cornerback Sam Shields who is currently ranked 2nd with 2 interceptions.  In terms of numbers and playmakers, the edge goes to the Green Bay Packers, but should Mike Tomlin retain his gameplan previously, the edge should go the Pittsburgh Steelers in reality.

Coaches/Intangibles

Both of these head coaches have adapted and changed their gameplans accordingly in the playoffs.  Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Packers coach Mike McCarthy have both relied on the run and the pass when necessary.  The talent though still runs on the side of the Green Bay Packers, although Rashard Mendenhall could possibly be featured again against the Packers.  This remains a push, although the injury to Aaron Rodgers may be a concern in the Super Bowl itself.

The Edge

The edge goes to the Green Bay Packer2 24-20, but this score may be a conservative estimate.  In any case, Aaron Rodgers should find a way to squeak one past the Pittsburgh Steelers stifling defense in the last few minutes of the game.  This game will be hard-fought between these two teams though, and it should be a physical matchup and a mental one between the coaches.

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Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears: NFC Championship Post-Game Analysis

This was one of the oldest rivalries sorting itself out on Soldier Field, with Aaron Rodgers and his explosive wide receivers against the stalwart defense of the Chicago Bears, led by Brian Urlacher.  This was the ultimate rubber-band match for these two rivals this season — whoever wins goes to the Super Bowl.  The Chicago Bears won in week 3 of the regular season with a 20-17 score and lost in week 17 against the Green Bay Packers 10-3.  The Bears intended on shutting out the Packers from arriving into the playoffs by using their starters in that last game, but they couldn’t stop the fourth quarter drive against Aaron Rodgers.  It’s Lovie Smith vs. Mike McCarthy, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher vs. Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings and Jay Cutler vs. Clay Matthews…

Now here comes the NFC Conference playoffs and its analysis:

  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers started off early in the first quarter with passes to Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and James Starks. And an amazing Rodgers’ 1-yard rush for a touchdown as a first strike against the Chicago Bears.
  • Bears running back Matt Forte‘s early first quarter 24-yard reception from quarterback Jay Cutler was stunning.
  • The almost-close safety late first quarter to Jay Cutler was avoided barely with a jump pass to Matt Forte (that was dropped).  That was too close for comfort for the Bears and their fans.
  • James Starks got his first NFL career touchdown from 4-yards out, and it extended the lead to 14-0 for the Packers.
  • Bad Jay Cutler finally showed up in this critical game with a quarterback rating of 34.1 with only 80 yards passing and an interception into the half.  Unfortunately, Bad Jay Cutler additionally was replaced with backup Todd Collins after the half. The game for the Bears started to spiral downwards afterwards.
  • Green Bay Packers had 103 total yards rushing between Aaron Rodgers, James Starks and Brandon Jackson into the half.  The Packers established a running threat albeit a bit unconventionally with Rodgers in the equation, but it was first assisted by the receiving duo of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson with 115 yards combined into the half.
  • Near the end of the fourth quarter, the interception from Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears from a pass intended for Packers wide receiver Donald Driver was answered with an interception from Sam Shields with a pass intended to Johnny Knox.
  • Brian Urlacher’s 39-yard  interception return of Aaron Rodgers could not swing the momentum into the Bears favor as the offense sputtered under Todd Collins.
  • Then in came Caleb Hanie, the third option at quarterback for the Bears late third quarter with both an injured Jay Cutler and an anemic Todd Collins on the sidelines.
  • Caleb Hanie’s drive ended with Chester Taylor’s 1-yard touchdown to close the lead within a touchdown at 14-7.
  • BJ Raji’s late fourth quarter 18-yard interception on Caleb Hanie brought the score of 21-7.
  • Earl Bennett’s 35-yard pass for a touchdown kept the game interesting again at 21-14.
  • Sam Shields last interception of Caleb Hanie sealed the game.

The explosive Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense fought the Chicago Bears at Soldiers Field and came out with a 21-7 win. The arrival of Bad (and Injured) Jay Cutler and Bad Todd Collins did not go so well for the Chicago Bears, despite the Bears defense stepping up at times. Good Caleb Hanie brought life to this Bears team, although the last two minutes closed the game for the Bears.  Surprisingly, Good Caleb Hanie had a better quarterback rating at 88.1 compared to Aaron Rodgers 55.4.

Now the Green Bay Packers are off to the Super Bowl against their opponent to be determined later tonight, and the Chicago Bears may have found a starting quarterback for their next season over Jay Cutler. Coach Lovie Smith and the Bears are now regretting not stopping the Green Bay Packers in their last game of the regular season, as the Packers ended theirs in the post-season.