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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Defenses: more than the numbers

On the one hand, most of the pre-SB talk seems to be about Ben vs. Rodgers. But these two teams are built on defense.

On the other hand, they played just last season and it was a crazy, 37-36 shootout that Pittsburgh won on a long pass on the game's final play.

Both teams have better defenses' this year.


Points Per Game
1 - Steelers 14.5
2 - Packers 15.0

Total Defense
2 - Steelers (276.8 ypg)
5 - Packers (309.1 ypg)

Passing YPG
5 - Packers (194.2)
12 - Steelers (214.1)

Rushing YPG
1 - Steelers (62.8)
18 -Packers (114.9)

The Packers score 24.2 points per game: the Steelers, 23.4. The Packers threw for about 20 yards more per game. The Steelers ran for about 20 yards more per game.

You have to go beyond the numbers for this game.

Can the Packers O-line hold off the Steelers and give Rodgers time? Pittsburgh had 47 sacks and Rodgers is not very mobile in the pocket. Knock him silly (he's been concussed twice this year) and Matt Foley (formerly of Boston College) comes in.

Can the Steelers patchwork line (Pouncey is doubtful) keep the Packers at bay? Green Bay had 4 sacks, but no QB in the NFL is better at keeping plays alive than Ben.

Can the Packers receivers (five guys caught between 43 and 76 passes. Gregg Jennings is the only downfield threat) get open on Taylor, McFadden (probable to play) and Gay? Clark will have more opportunity to cover since he isn't going to be needed much in the run game.

Charles Woodson was Defensive Player of the Year last year. He and Tramon Williams are regarded as much better corners than the Steelers' guys. But on any play, Ben can go to Wallace, Ward, Brown, Saunders and Miller. And lately, Mendenhall. That's a lot of coverage needed. After you're certain it's not a run play.

Pittsburgh can run the ball. Green Bay can't (and won't against Pittsburgh).

Both defenses are very good. But Green Bay doesn't have as many big play guys. If the D keeps Rodgers from breaking out, they're done on offense. If Ben has a decent game (think Cardinals, not Seahawks), the Steelers have more weapons than the Packer defense can handle. Mendenhall will likely get a lot of work over the first three quarters as they try to slow down the linebackers. And if play action pass is working, Ward and Miller will get open underneath. And a safety needs to give help on Wallace's deep routes.

Green Bay doesn't run well, so the Steelers' #1 strength (run D) doesn't matter too much. But knowing that, the D can scheme more to stop Rodgers. The Packer D will have to respect Mendenhall while accounting for Ben's playmaking to a variety of receivers.

Again, I feel good about this matchup. The idea the Packers are this high-flying offense is a bit of a misconception. They tore apart Atlanta, but they only managed 21 against Chicago. I think the idea that Rodgers can throw for 350 yards and put up 30 points is wrong. And if it comes down to the fourth quarter, Ben has the experience; in the Super Bowl.

On D, I think Troy makes a big play or two and Lawrence Timmons has a monster game. On O, it's Ben.


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