A Clash of the Classics

Cheeseheads and Terrible Towels. Lambeau and Heinz Field. Green and Gold and Black and Gold. The Packers and Steelers are two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, and they also have the best fan bases in the league. What team deserves it more than these?

Between their nine Super Bowl wins in ten games, these two teams have had plenty of success. But 1967 doesn’t affect this game. It doesn’t mean a thing.

Here are perhaps the two most complete teams of the season. Green Bay can air it out as well as anyone, and their running game–specifically rookie James Starks–has really stepped up in the postseason. Plus they’ve got that trademarked Dom Caper aggressive D.

The Steelers are exactly who they appear to be. They’ll shove it right down your throat, but if they need to make a big drive in a short window, Ben Roethlisberger is your man. And then there’s that defense.

How weird is it, though, that a sixth seed who barely made the playoffs is favored over a near-dynasty by three points? It’s the classic example of a underdog team with a quarterback who is hard to hate (and also happens to be replacing one of the most hated figures it football) versus a meat-head quarterback who is hard to like. Between that, two great all-around teams, and a semi-feud between rappers Wiz Khalifa and sudden-Packer backer Lil Wayne, we’ve got ourselves a game.

Going into the game, most fans will ask the question ‘Can the Steelers out-score Green Bay?’ I have a better question.

Can the Packers beat the Steelers if they can’t run the ball?

Pittsburgh had by far the best run defense in the NFL this season when they limited opponents to 3 yards per carry and 62 yards per game. They ratcheted up the Run D even more in January, holding the opposition to 2.6 yards per carry and 52 yards per game. Their defenders are big. They are strong. And they WILL decapitate you if they have to. But seriously, no team in the NFL has a better front seven in the league.

The Packers have been able to skate by thus far in the postseason without a great running game. James Starks had a breakout game against Philly for 123 yards, but has since come back to reality, totaling 140 yards on the ground in the next two games. Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn have also been splitting carries, but they are certainly nothing to run and tell that about.

Without much of a running game to work with, Green Bay won’t be able to control the clock, especially late in the game when they’ll need it most. Aaron Rodgers will have to have the game of his life against the vaunted Steelers defense, a unit which hasn’t given up 250 yards in two months 5th and 300 yards since Halloween.

But if we’re talking about quarterbacks, y’all need to hide yo kids and hide yo wife cuz Ben Roethlisberger is coming to Dallas! The man may not be the perfect role model off the field, but he’s the definition of a winner on the field. Dude is 10-2 in the playoffs, including 2-0 in the Super Bowl. Sure, he’ll try to force one too many passes to a receiver early on in the game, but if you need someone to take you on a drive to win the big game, he’s your man.

You may not want him to marry your daughter, but if you need someone in your foxhole, Big Ben is your guy.

You may not want him to marry your daughter, but if you need someone in your foxhole, Big Ben is your guy.

At a massive 6’5″ 240, Big Ben is easily the hardest quarterback to bring down. You hardly ever see the first pass rusher sack him, Ben finds a way to escape the pressure, shake off a defender, or squeeze in the perfect throw. Another thing that makes his special is his mobility; he will roll out under pressure and can either rumble for a solid gain or make a throw on the run, similar in a way to what Cam Newton did for Auburn as he led them to the BCS National Championship this season.

These two teams didn’t play this year, but they did way back in 2009. For the most part the teams were the same. What happened? Pittsburgh won a shootout with a last-second heroic pass from Big Ben to then-rookie Mike Wallace for a 19 yard touch down strike. Big Ben lit up the Packers’ secondary (which still had Atari Bigby and Al Harris along with linebackers Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga) for a whopping 503 yards. He had 19 passes for double-digit yardage, ten of which were for over 20 yards, including 4 for over 30 and 2 over 50 yards. Like a surgeon, he was able to slice his dice his way through Green Bay.

Aaron Rodgers wasn’t so bad himself, he threw for 383 yards of mistake-free football. But unfortunately, his teammates only managed 60 yards rushing, and he couldn’t single-handedly put his team on his back and will his team to victory.

Oh, and one other thing. Troy Polamalu wasn’t playing.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a non-quarterback who makes a bigger impact on his team than Troy Polamalu. With him, Pittsburgh is 25-5. Without him, they’re only 6-7. Troy doesn’t just make an absurd amount of of plays thanks to his blazing speed and incredible instincts, he inspires his teammates to play to their top abilities. Pittsburgh plays with exponentially more confidence with Polamalu and his flying locks of hair on the field.

Ultimately, this game comes down to preparation. Whichever team can come up with the best gameplan and execute best will be the winner. To be honest, I’m not even sure if Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy is a great coach. Yes, he led his team to three straight road victories to launch themselves to the Super Bowl, but he never exuded much confidence, and Aaron Rodgers did most of the work. Mike Tomlin, however, is by far one of the best coaches in the league. He knows exactly how to get to his players and inspires his players as well as anyone else in the league.

Not only that, but Pittsburgh has a distinct edge on defense. Led by the great Dick LeBeau, puts The Fear of God into the other team, and Green Bay doesn’t exactly have the best offensive line.

The Steelers have been there and done that. Big Ben wins big games, and I can’t think of any other way to classify the Super Bowl than a big game. Rashard Mendenhall will be able to pound the ball throughout the game, and Pittsburgh will bring the heat and make Aaron Rodgers make the big mistake.

This game will be a great one, and the last thing I expect is a blowout. Get your towels ready cuz it’s about to go down.

Pittsburgh 24, Green Bay 20.

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