|Seven [Steeler] Nation Army...|
|Written by Cotter|
|February 05, 2011 18:30|
This may sound pretty common sense, and really it is, but the NFL's Super Bowl is unlike any other major American sports championship.
Most leagues run their playoffs as series, but the NFL is the only one of the four big sports leagues that has its championship come down to just one game - four quarters, and 60 minutes.
You only get one shot, and it's do or die.
Luckily, that's just how the Steelers like it.
I don't think it would matter if it were one game or seven, for the Steelers, it's whatever it takes.
The Steelers are so focused on winning right now, so driven to be the best, that they're ready to do whatever they need to do to come out on the other side one Lombardi trophy richer.
But it takes two teams to tango, and this time around, the Steelers will have their hands full with the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers have been billed as a "team of destiny," who despite being a six seed have been talked about as a Super Bowl favorite since August.
And putting aside the fact that a designation like that is best bestowed AFTER winning the big one, the Pack have been on a roll since late December, ending their season with back to back wins against the Giants and Bears, and having ran through three different cities on the road this January, knocking off the top three seeded NFC teams and breaking many hearts along the way.
There's definitely no getting around the fact that the "Pack is Back"...
Although, based on that video they should hope their team performs better than its fans (/its OWNERS).
The Packers are a great football team that actually has a lot of Pittsburgh parallels.
When we played them last, it may have been the highlight of the Steelers 2009 season.
At least this play in particular may have been...
Coming off of the now-infamous five game skid that ultimately kept them out of the postseason, the Steelers rode Big Ben's arm to victory to the tune of 500 yards passing, narrowly defeating the Packers 37-36 on the literally last second TD you just re-lived.
But forget last year's game (in which Troy Polamalu didn't play, PS).
And forget every other game either team has played this season.
None of them matter now.
All of a sudden, we're both 0-0; two teams playing for only one trophy.
One game. One moment. One opportunity.
It really is amazing how similar the Steelers and Packers are, even on down to what the teams embody.
The Steelers are representative of the hard working men (and women) who spent years of their lives in hot, dangerous mills making the steel that has become the backbone of this country's cities and towns.
The Packers are also representative of hard working men, only those who punched the clock in meat packing plants.
And it's no secret that both fanbases are among the league's "best," or at the very least its most rabid.
But one thing that is most certainly different for these teams is the road each took to get here.
While the Steelers won their division, and thus enjoyed a bye week and two home playoff games, the Packers had to get in as a wild card team, having to go play three games on the road.
And then of course there's also the fact that 75% of the Packers team is younger than 28 (don't bother checking my facts, I just made that up) and 98% of them have zero Super Bowl experience, while the Steelers are a much more veteran team, with said big game experience.
Either way, putting everything else aside, let's face it, this is Ben's game.
There's a lot of guys who need to make plays tomorrow, but there's one guy who really needs to make plays.
This is bigger than just a football game for Ben.
He's now 8-2 in the playoffs, had won the most games out of any QB in NFL history through his first five seasons in the league, has already won two Super Bowls, and is generally harder to bring down than a rhinoceros, yet there is a significant portion of the football-watching population that doesn't believe he's an elite QB.
On top of that, he's had just about every media outlet from ESPN to Bleacher Report questioning his character all season (let alone just the past two weeks), and it might not take a big a stretch of imagination to think that there is a significant portion of the football-watching population who are rooting for him to fail.
Ben will not let that happen.
This man does not want to be remembered as anything other than a champion.
He lives for these opportunities, and he'll be damned if he's going to sit by and watch someone else snatch the glory out from under him (at least if he has anything to say about it).
But beyond Ben, and outside of this game, this has been one hell of a team to watch.
When you think about the Steelers of the 70's, you have a hard time thinking of one who wasn't a star.
When you think about the Steelers of 2010, or at least when I do, I see the same thing.
Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Ike Taylor, Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Mike Wallace...
You'd have a hard time finding a better starting lineup in the league.
And no matter what happens in Dallas tomorrow, we still got to watch these men battle all season and all post season, up-current, dealing with injuries, fines, bad calls and other setbacks along the way.
So, before we get into the actual preview, I just want to say that wherever we are on Monday, it's been an amazing season and I've loved every last second of it.
I said it a couple of weeks ago in my Jets "preview," but I do this (and by "this," I mean "write this blog") because I love the Steelers, and I love sharing that feeling with you all - Steeler nation.
There are few more satisfying and exciting moments in a Steelers fan's life than those spent watching the Steelers compete for a championship. And I'm lucky enough to know that because I've already had the opportunity to do it three times in my life - twice in the last six years.
All we can ask is that the Steelers play like champions, and as a result of that play become champions yet again.
I don't know about you, but I can't fucking wait.
So now that we've done this little upfront dance for a little while here, it's time to get to the real heart of it - the preview, below. As usual, we'll start this thing off with a little Van Halen, and when we come out on the other side, you all better be ready to give your thoughts on tomorrow's game.
After all, this is the SUPER BOWL, people.
Let's do this...
I won't lie to you - no QB will ever be equal to Big Ben in my mind. But if I had to pick another man for the job, it'd be Aaron Rodgers.
I actually see a lot of Ben in Rodgers - his ability to make plays any way you can think of, his never wanting to take a play or a game off (even after a concussion), and even his elusiveness somewhat, though he's infinitely easier to bring down.
That all said, raise your hand if you're tired of hearing the media fellate this guy as a future hall of famer when this is really only his third season starting.
Look, obviously he's a great QB, who has had a great season.
No one is going to dispute that.
But I guess there has to be a favorite in just about every category, and let's face it, while he probably would've been anyway, the last year of Ben's life pretty much ensured that Rodgers would be the guy most talked about as the hero.
Anyway, I've been saying this for the last two weeks, but there is no more important key to tomorrow's game than getting to Aaron Rodgers.
And that, is the bottom line.
The media has been very vocal about the fact that rookie James Starks, a 6th round pick last April, has run for the most yards of any back in these 2010 playoffs.
But the fact is, he did it over three games, and the only game he actually went over 100 in was the wild card game against the Eagles. Aside from the 123 yards he put up in that game, he only ran for 66 against the Falcons and 74 against the Bears.
Besides, the Steelers faced Michael Turner, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice (three times), Peyton Hillis (twice), Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson (twice), Darren McFadden, and Ladainian Tomlinson (twice) this season, and none of them put up the kind of numbers people have come to expect from them.
Put it this way - if James Starks runs for over 100 on the Steelers - hell, even over 60 yards - I'll wear a dress AND change my name to Carson Palmer.
Oh yeah, there's also former Steeler John Kuhn to deal with...
I'd love to tell you there's something about Kuhn I don't like, but frankly, I'm an honest man.
The Packers have a handful of capable receivers, but the one who is most often on the end of the Packers' explosive plays is number 85. 76 catches this year for 1265 yards and 12 TDs is about as good of a stat line as any receiver can ask for. But what's most important for the Steelers is that he also had 21 plays of 20 yards or more. To give you a little perspective on that - our own one-trick pony Mike Wallace had 26 such plays in 2010, only five more than Jennings.
All of that is moot when you're on Ike Taylor's watch.
Beyond Jennings, no one can seem to get rid of Donald Driver's old balls, and Rodgers has 6'3" Jordy Nelson and James Jones to lean on.
After all that's been made of the Packers' potential to spread our defense out with four and five wide sets, nothing would give me more pleasure than to see a big fat sloppy mess in the box score under "Packers receiving."
In his dreams, maybe.
Andrew Quarless is who I'm referring to, in case you haven't been following the life and times of the Packers' TEs.
Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Brian Bulaga.
38 sacks allowed during the regular season, five in three playoff games.
By the way, Green Bay office ladies, I don't think anyone is disputing that Lambeau Field is your house.
Shit, I mean, who else wants it?
Let's move on...
You're welcome for the night terrors.
As you have probably discovered, BJ Raji has become a media darling in the last two weeks. The Packers former 1st round pick from 2009 really only elevated himself to such a level by doing what every nose tackle has nightmares about doing - running...
Specifically, running back a pick for a TD in the NFC Championship game.
And now that Maurkice Pouncey has been ruled out for tomorrow, I don't think one person outside of Steeler nation believes that Doug Legursky can handle the 337 pound machine in the middle (not that he'll even necessarily have to).
On the season, Raji had 6.5 sacks, which by nose tackle standards is about 1600.
But little does he know - the standard is the standard.
Also, his partners in crime are some dude no one's ever heard of (Ryan Pickett), and the brother of scorned Jet Kris Jenkins, Cullen Jenkins. Pickett had one sack on the season, and Jenkins (perhaps the beneficiary of having Clay Matthews coming behind him) had seven(!).
But despite all that, the Packers still ranked only 18th in rush defense, giving up almost 115 yards a game to opposing running backs.
And if Rush-hard Mendenhall can light up the league's 2nd best rush defense for 121, imagine what he could do to the league's 18th.
This is really just logic, people.
Speaking of night terrors, I don't know about you, but I'm still having them about Clay Matthews.
He only technically had two sacks when we played the Pack back in 2009, but sometimes terror is unquantifiable...
Luckily (or unluckily in this case) it can be captured by cameras.
And just in case you thought that was any different than normal for this freak show, allow me to inform you about his 13.5 sacks in 2010, which may have been a large part of why he lost the AP Defensive Player of the Year award to Troy by only TWO votes.
So yeah, Sunday should be a leisurely stroll in the park for Jonathan Scott...
Beyond Clay Matthews, we're also looking at inside linebackers AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop as well as strong side linebacker, Erik Walden, who is perhaps better known as, "not Nick Barnett," who (Barnett, that is) went on IR back in October. Both Hawk and Bishop had upwards of 100 tackles on the season, and Walden still managed 3 sacks and also forced a fumble against Philadelphia a few weeks back.
Oh, and the Packers linebackers - with both Clay Matthews and AJ Hawk - may also win the award for most hair as a unit.
So they've got that going for them...which must be nice.
Chuck Woodson, ready for some action...what type of action is up to your imagination.
It's no secret, the Packers secondary has come alive this year.
(CB) Woodson - 92 tackles, 2 picks, 5 forced fumbles
(CB) Tramon Williams - 57 tackles, 6 picks, 1 forced fumble
(S) Nick Collins - 70 tackles, 4 picks
(S) Charlie Peprah - 63 tackles, 2 picks
Probably a pretty good part of the reason why Green Bay ended its season 5th in the league defending the pass.
The question is - can they handle Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, Manny Sanders, Antonio Brown, and Antwan Randle El?
Don't worry, few can.
This is the exact look I hope to see on Mike McCarthy's face at the end of tomorrow's game.
Now, what would a Super Bowl be without a Yinz Luv Da Stillers Super Bowl Preview show (if you haven't seen it already)?
And of course, because it has been magic through the last two games, I tapped Steeler Nation's collective intelligence one last time for a little Packers hate...
Sidebar - I'm allowing this, even though Favre is favre removed (pun most definitely intended) from his Packers days, on account of the fact that he really is a colossal douchebag.
And just so we're all clear, there are OFTOT shirts, and they are your basic hanes white cotton v-neck with "OFTOT" written on the front with a black Sharpie.
What can I say, this is a no budget operation.
So much Facebook...
So, hey guys, it'd be impossible to accurately characterize exactly how fired up I am (and probably you are) for this game, but I did my best.
All that's left is for the Steelers to once again...
Wait, no, that's not right...
Prediction = Steelers...don't care about the score whatsoever.
Here we go.
If you haven't already, become a fan of OFTOT on Facebook, and follow Cotter on Twitter. Or don't. Your choice, really.