Only one of these teams can come away with the victory though. I'm going to try to go through the same position-by-position breakdown I did for Browns games during the regular season, but be warned: for every positional advantage a team may have, it might be the "X factors" that determine the outcome of the game.
|QB||I think Aaron Rodgers was the NFC's best quarterback this season. He is the total package for a franchise quarterback, and if he hasn't already made fans forget about Brett Favre's legacy in Green Bay, he will with a Super Bowl victory. He can light up a defense on any given play no matter what spot on the field his team is lined up at, and his mobility allows him to create plays other quarterbacks cannot.
While Rodgers' mobility is good, nobody in the NFL can match the "escapability" of Ben Roethlisberger. While most of his plays after shedding defenders turn out to be positive, he still takes quite a bit of risk by trying to stay up. Roethlisberger is not as good of a passer as Rodgers is, but he can still get the job done -- he has two Super Bowls under his belt and he threw for over 500 yards passing last year against the Packers.
|RB||James Starks has come alive in the postseason, and you have to be particularly impressed with how Green Bay ran the ball against a good run-stopping team in the Chicago Bears. It is hard to call their playoff-found run game a fluke because they have done it against three good teams for three consecutive weeks. The Steelers have had solid production from Rashard Mendenhall all season long though, so they get the advantage here.
Greg Jennings has 17 catches for 239 yards this postseason, but Pittsburgh can't afford to double team him when Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson are near-equivalent threats.
While Green Bay has played one extra postseason game, they have four receivers who are explosive and consistently put in position to make a big play with yards after the catch. |
||It's a shame the Packers don't have Jermichael Finley here. When he faced the Steelers last year, he had 9 catches for 74 yards and 1 touchdown. Heath Miller gave the Packers problems last year and will probably be able to exploit Green Bay's safeties again in this one.
||The Packers get the big advantage here because of the Steelers' Maurkice Pouncey being ruled out for the game. Pittsburgh's offensive line played its best game of the season two weeks ago, but if Green Bay believes they can exploit Doug Legursky early in the game, that could affect Pittsburgh's entire gameplan.
|DL||I could not come up with a good defense for either defensive line being superior to the other. The Steelers are led by Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel, while the Packers are led by B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins. Hopefully Raji drills Roethlisberger a few times.
Clay Matthews is a beast, but when you look across the board a the Steelers' linebackers, I don't think anyone can question the fact that they have the best unit in the NFL. James Harrison, LaMar Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, and James Farrior are all studs -- there really isn't a weak link on their line to speak of. Harrison will surely be looking to out-do his performance against the Cardinals a few years ago, when he made a historic 100-yard interception on Kurt Warner before halftime.
Charles Woodson can play a key factor in coming up to defend against Pittsburgh's ground game. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields give the Packers great depth at cornerback. Pittsburgh is confident in the ability of Ike Taylor, but with the number of unique formations the Packers bring out, he probably won't be able to match up with Greg Jennings on every play.
|S||I purposely broke up the cornerback and safety positions for this preview, because if they were combined, the ranking would have been an unfair "even" representation. Where the Packers thrive at cornerback, the Steelers are unbelievable at safety.
For all of the hatred Troy Polamalu receivers from certain Browns fans, he remains one of the best safeties in the game and has the unique role of being able to walk around wherever he wants to presnap. Ryan Clark is a great safety beside him too. Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah aren't "weak" at the safety position, but they pale in comparison to Polamalu and Clark.
This is a very even game and one that I would be afraid to make any bets on with a straight up prediction. I like the experience, confidence, and talent that the Steelers bring to the table, but I think Ben Roethlisberger could be facing more pressure than usual against a team that won't let him slip away.
The Packers lack the experience factor which could be a disaster if Green Bay makes some of the offensive mistakes they have made (i.e. Donald Driver fumbling, James Jones dropping a touchdown), but with the physical defense they have and the type of playoffs Aaron Rodgers has had, I don't think he'll hold things back. This will be the most aggressive offense the Steelers will have faced in a couple of months, and by the time they are able to adjust to it, Green Bay will start using their newly-found running game to drain some clock and keep the ball out of Roethlisberger's hands.
CHRIS' POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS RECORD: 5-5 (50%)
CHRIS' REG. SEASON PREDICTIONS RECORD: 160-96 (62.5%)