Two of the NFL’s glamour teams meet this Sunday at Cowboys Stadium in Super Bowl XLV.
High-powered Green Bay will face defense-minded Pittsburgh in what should be an entertaining matchup, since both are peaking, with the NFC champ Packers coming off a 21-14 win over Chicago, and the Steelers pushing aside the New York Jets 24-19, in the AFC title game.
One advantage Pittsburgh has is its running attack, ranked 11th, and is led by Rashard Mendenhall (167 yards in the playoffs, 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season).
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers had spectacular outings against Philadelphia and Atlanta.
In the 21-16 victory over the Eagles, Rodgers had three scoring passes with no interceptions, and hit 18 of 27 for 180 yards, then added a 366-yard showing in the 48-21 rout of the Falcons as he tossed three scores and no picks, while converting 31 of 36.
Rodgers was sufficient against the Bears, as he completed 17 of 30 for 244 yards, with two interceptions and no touchdown passes.
Green Bay’s seeking its fourth Super Bowl trophy, and Rodgers, who had been in Brett Favre’s enormous shadow, has become a star.
The one-time UC Berkeley standout owns a quick release, strong arm, and like his Pittsburgh counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, always seems to avoid the rush, which will be coming at him in the form of linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, safety Troy Polamalu, and helped make the Steelers top-ranked against the rush.
The Packers are 24th in rushing, and are paced by rookie James Starks, who has 263 yards in three playoff wins.
This means Rodgers will need time to find his receivers like Donald Driver (51 catches for 565 yards), who snared five passes for 56 yards against the Eagles, and six for 76 yards against Atlanta, Greg Jennings (76 catches, 1,265 yards and 12 TD’s), who hauled in eight receptions for 101 yards versus the Falcons, and Jordy Nelson, who grabbed eight for 79 yards in the same game.
Though Roethlisberger isn’t a smooth passer like Rodgers, and hasn’t been named the league’s Most Valuable Player, he’s been on two Super Bowl-winning teams.
Roethlisberger was suspended four games because of an off-the-field incident, and is trying to put his life and career back together.
In a dozen games, Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards, 17 touchdowns, five picks, and hit on 61.7 percent of his tosses. In the playoffs, Roethlisberger has connected on 29 of 51 for 359 yards, with two scores and two interceptions, but will find any receiver, especially speedy Mike Wallace (60 catches, 1,257 yards, 10 TD’s) and tight end Heath Miller, who has 77 yards and seven receptions in the postseason.
The Packers have big-play capability on defense, but rank 18th against the run, and fifth versus the pass.
They include linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk, along with Sam Shields and Charles Woodson in the secondary.
If the Steelers win, it will be their seventh Super Bowl, though they’re a slight underdog.
It will be tight, but the Packers have Rodgers and too many offensive weapons. The pick: Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 27.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.