Long-time readers know that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Pittsburgh Steelers fan. If you like winners—and what little kid doesn’t?—there really was nobody like the late ’70s Steelers, who won four Super Bowls in the span of just a few years. I’ve followed the team since, celebrating their victories and agonizing over their defeats.
Despite two recent Super Bowl victories—both of which I thought we had a good chance of winning beforehand—I dread this one. Simply put, I don’t think we match up well with the Green Bay Packers. I don’t think all is lost—I can think of a way that we can win, but it requires the Pack to do some stupid things, and that’s not a recipe for success in sports.
For all the talk of how great these defenses are, they’re both flawed in significant ways. The Pack has had issues stopping the run. In fact, here’s the one way I think Pittsburgh wins: If our make-shift, second-rate offense line and running back Rashard Mendenhall can get four yards a carry early and consistently, the Pack have a real problem. In essence, what I’m talking about is old school Steeler football where we grind out the yards on the ground and control the game clock. The Pack was 18th against the run during the season; they can be hurt this way, and if they don’t get the stops they need (the Jets didn’t), they’ll find themselves in a heckuva fight.
Conversely, the Pack should abandon the run altogether. The Steeler defense this year was the best in the history of the NFL against the run. There’s no point, except for an occasional delayed draw to help set up a play action pass later. This isn’t to say that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers shouldn’t pull the ball down and run it because he should if it’s warranted, and it can even be a called play now and then. But the hand off to the running back, whether it’s up the middle or pulling a guard, forget it. Steelers will stuff it.
Unfortunately—and this is what has me fearful—making Green Bay one dimensional (pass only) won’t win us the game. Rodgers is adept at reading coverage after the snap and delivering. Polomalu might be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year (although I would have voted for LB James Harrison), but he’s only one man of four (or five or six if we’re in nickel or dime). I don’t think we’ll be able to get sufficient pressure with a four- or five-man rush, and that set up a huge problem. How do we stop a good maybe great QB’s passing game? Historically, the answer is “we don’t.”
The last time these teams played the Steelers won 37-36 on a bomb to the endzone in what was literally the last play of the game. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think it will be that close this time, and I don’t think the Steelers will prevail.