Home > American Football > Super Bowl XLV Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Super Bowl XLV Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s here! Tonight in Arlington, Texas, the Biggest Show on Earth lands in the world’s most impressive sporting arena. A record crowd is expected to watch two of the NFL’s most storied franchises go head-to-head for the sport’s ultimate prize. Excited? You should be. Both teams have quality throughout the roster and seem to have peaked at just the right time. Sport Report previews an intriguing match-up.

Green Bay Packers: Regular Season Record 10-6. 2nd in NFC North.

The Packers are making their first appearance in the big one since 1998 in Super Bowl XXXII, when they lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Green Bay were many people’s favourites to go all the way prior to the season kicking off, but injuries seemed to have put paid to such aspirations, particularly as they had been robbed of star running back Ryan Grant for the entirety of the season. Mike McCarthy’s men battled on and thanks to stellar performances from the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews, made the playoffs where they have looked very impressive indeed.

Route to the Super Bowl

Wildcard Playoff: defeated Philadelphia Eagles 21-16

Divisional Playoff: defeated Atlanta Falcons 48-21

Conference Playoff: defeated Chicago Bears 21-14

Key Players

QB- Aaron Rodgers

Although Aaron Rodgers has only been a starter for three years, he is undoubtedly one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. The California native had another fantastic season passing for 3922 yards and 28 touchdowns despite missing a game with concussion. For the second consecutive year, he posted a passer rating above 100 (101.2) and proved his accuracy by throwing only 11 interceptions. Add in 356 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns and you have a picture of a complete quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers will be the Packers' key man (This image is The property of the Guardian)

More importantly for the Packers, he has performed even better in the playoffs. His numbers through three playoff games make impressive reading with 6 touchdowns, a 71% completion rate, a passer rating of 109.2 and he turned in one of the all-time great playoff performances against Atlanta. Rodgers is quite simply the Packers’ main man, especially in the absence of Grant. If he is on top form, the Packers should win.

WR- Greg Jennings

It is all well and good having a quarterback who is on a hot streak but you need somebody to catch the balls he is throwing and Green Bay have had that in the form of Greg Jennings. An excellent all-round receiver, Jennings has speed, strength, is a good route runner and offers Rodgers a safe pair of hands. The man from Kalamazoo, Michigan proved himself as one the league’s top receivers this year with 1265 yards (4th in the NFL) and 12 touchdowns. Nobody has caught more passes in the playoffs this year and Green Bay will no doubt see him as their number one outlet. The Steelers may look to use double coverage in an attempt to nullify the threat he poses, but with the likes of Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson also providing options, this may be a gamble.

CB- Charles Woodson

One of the team’s natural leaders and one of the few Packers with Super Bowl experience having lost with the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, Woodson is a key player in more ways than one. He has long been one of the league’s top defencemen and ball hawks. His ability to intercept passes shows his ability to read the game and this season he posted a career high 92 tackles, showing the key role he plays in an excellent secondary that also contains Nick Collins and Tramon Williams. Arguably more important are the intangibles that Woodson brings: leadership, composure and experience, all of which could be crucial against a team with far more Super Bowl experience. At 34 years of age, Woodson will know this may very well be his final shot at winning a ring and he will no doubt do all he can to make it happen.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Regular Season Record 12-4. Won AFC North. 

The Steelers won Super Bowl XL (2006) and XLIII (2009) and so are chasing their third Lombardi Trophy in six years.

Pittsburgh had the second best defence in the NFL during the regular season, giving up just 276.8 yards per game (YPG). Furthermore, they were the most effective defensive unit against the rush as they held opponents to an average of just 62.8 YPG. Whilst they may not have been one of the most prolific offences in the league, running back Rashard Mendenhall impressed and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was as reliable as ever. In safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison, the Steelers have two of the NFL’s best defensive players and with such a balanced team, they will fancy their chances.

Route to the Super Bowl

Wildcard Playoff: Bye

Divisional Playoff: defeated Baltimore Ravens 31-24

Conference Playoff: defeated New York Jets 24-19

Key Players.

QB- Ben Roethlisberger

Despite recent off-field misdemeanours which have not endeared him to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, ‘Big Ben’ continues to perform when it matters most. At the age of just 29, Roethlisberger already owns two Super Bowl Rings and is looking to join the likes of Tom Brady, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as a quarterback with at least three Super Bowl wins. His experience of playing in the big game could prove key in pressure situations. Roethlisberger missed the first four games of the season through suspension but still passed for 3200 yards and 17 touchdowns. Roethlisberger is an accurate passer with a big arm and if he is at the top of his game, the Steelers have every chance of winning. The only obvious weakness in his game is perhaps his lack of mobility, which may suit the Packers as they look to blitz.

RB – Rashard Mendenhall

In only his second season as a regular starter, Mendenhall rushed for 1273 yards (7th in NFL) and added an impressive 13 touchdowns. With Roethlisberger passing for a solid, but unspectacular 17 touchdowns, this scoring contribution was a major factor in the Steelers’ success. Mendenhall demonstrated a safe pair of hands, fumbling on only two occasions through the regular season and has continued his good form in to the playoffs, rushing for 167 yards and three touchdowns in two games. The Packers defence was only 18th in the league against the run during the regular season and so Mendenhall may be the deciding factor.

Troy Polamalu (left) could be the difference between winning and losing for the Steelers (This image is the property of Getty Images)

SS – Troy Polamalu

The man with the $1 million hair is one of the NFL’s elite players regardless of position. Like Roethlisberger, Polamalu is looking for a third Super Bowl ring and will no doubt give his all to make it happen. The Steelers are a different proposition with Polamalu, as was seen last year, when he was injured for four games and his recent AP Defensive Player of the Year award is testament to his quality. He finished the regular season with seven interceptions (only Ed Reed had more) and continues to perform at a level that most players simply cannot reach. Polamalu is the complete safety; he can tackle, offers excellent coverage and is very quick. If Aaron Rodgers wants to throw the ball in Polamalu’s direction, he will have to make sure his accuracy is spot on.

Sport Report Final Verdict.

This year’s Super Bowl is a battle between two well-balanced teams which are both capable of beating each other. It will come down to who executes well on the day and, as Charles Woodson said earlier this week, who starts well. However, the Packers offence seems to be firing on all cylinders at the moment and their defence has stepped up its game in the playoffs, most notably against the run. These factors combined should mean that they have just too much for the Steelers and win a close, thrilling encounter.

Sport Report Prediction: Green Bay 21-17 Pittsburgh

Categories: American Football

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