Super Bowl XLV Preview Part Two: Steelers Offense Versus Packers Defense All Green Bay Packers All the Time

Since we took a look at the Packers offense and Steelers defense the other day, let’s “do the Favre” and flip flop.

In part two, we’ll be looking at the matchup between Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense against Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers defense. While to some it may not be intriguing as the opposite matchup, this battle still obviously play a big role into which team walks away with the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers offense

Much like the Packers, most of the attention on the offensive side of the ball for the Steelers is focused on their quarterback.

Roethlisberger, who missed the first four games of the season due to a suspension for his alleged role in a potential sexual assault case, plays a game very similar to the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.

Oh, and with a couple notable differences: Big Ben is a bigger player and more powerful. Where Rodgers will burn you with pure finesse, Roethlisberger will beat you sheer power and brawn. In a situation where Rodgers will slide, Roethlisberger will barrel over a cornerback to get those precious few extra yards.

When you throw in the fact that he is a relative accurate quarterback, you find that Roethlisberger is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. He has won two Super Bowls already and will be trying for his third in seven years against the Packers on Sunday. I also don’t have to remind Packer fans that Big Ben is also the toughest in the clutch. If the Steelers have the ball down by less than a touchdown with only two minutes or so to play in the game, Packer Nation ought to be sweating bullets.

Aside from the Roethlisberger, the Steelers normally feature a very solid and powerful rushing attack. Rashard Mendenhall is a solid back, but isn’t nearly as explosive as former Steelers back Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker. He faces a stiff challenge against the Packers rush defense on Sunday.

Another similarity between the Steelers and Packers offenses is that of the wide receiver position. Mike Wallace provides Roethlisberger’s deep threat while the physical Hines Ward is at his best in the middle of the field. Sounds a lot like Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, no?

The Steelers’ weak link on offense is their offensive line. Multiple injuries have plagued them at many of the positions, most recently at center where it is doubtful (despite what he says) that Maurkice Pouncey will play in Super Bowl XLV. After Pouncey went down in the AFC Championship, there were noticeable chemistry issues between Roethlisberger and backup center Doug Legursky when multiple snaps were mishandled at the line of scrimmage.

Look for Dom Capers and company to exploit that as much as possible should Pouncey not play

Green Bay Packers defense

Where do I start with this unit?

How about with the runner up AP NFL defensive player of the year linebacker Clay Matthews?

The Claymaker spearheads an outstanding linebacking corps that lost its veteran leader Nick Barnett earlier in the season. A.J. Hawk has stepped up and played well in what was a dubbed a critical year for him, Desmond Bishop continues to impress and has performed so well that he very well may render Barnett obsolete. Erik Walden has done a spectacular job and has been the biggest surprise on defense in the latter part of the season, going from off the street free agent to key contributor in the Packers’ Super Bowl run.

In front of those linebackers is a very big yet very athletic defensive line. At nose tackle is second year man B.J. Raji whom against the Bears got a chance to show off not only his underrated pass coverage ability but his underrated dance moves as well. In all seriousness, Raji has been playing at a Pro Bowl level according to Packers coach Mike McCarthy and has been incredible despite playing an abnormally high amount of snaps for someone of his size.

On either side of Raji are Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett. Jenkins has battled through some injuries to make it back in time for the playoffs and Pickett has been to the Super Bowl before, so his experience will prove key to the young Packers this week.

The secondary of the Packers received a face lift this season. Longtime cornerback Al Harris was released and Tramon Williams has ascended to become one of the top corners in the league. Of course, Charles Woodson is still there and though he couldn’t quite repeat his performance from 2009, quarterbacks are still wary throwing in his direction.

Also, lest we forget about the sudden improvement of undrafted rookie Sam Shield. Shields and Williams have teamed up for multiple interceptions this postseason with the two of them making the plays that served as the dagger in the heart of all three Packers playoff opponents.

Throw in Nick Collins and the surprising Charlie Peprah in at safety and you have one of the most complete defensive units in the league.

The matchup

While the matchup between the Packers offense and Steelers matchup was perhaps “too close to call,” no such thing can be said about the reverse.

The Packers have the advantage here and it’s not as close as you’d think.

The big talk question that has been asked all week to the members of the Packers defense is “How do you plan to bring down Roethlisberger?” They know how and they will do it.

While it is definitely no easy task, the best way to contain Big Ben is to cut of his running lanes and get pressure up the middle. What this likely means is that we will see Raji rushing the passer quite a bit and the outside linebackers try to trap the quarterback in the pocket. Roethlisberger is at his best on the run so keeping him in the pocket could give the secondary ample time to get a decent read on where the ball will be headed.

Getting to Roethlisberger is one thing, but tacking him is another matter. With a man of his size, the best way to hit Roethlisberger is to treat him like a tight end or running back. Stop his momentum, wrap him up and throw him to the ground. It requires a lot of strength to do but if there is one thing we have seen this year it’s that the Packers defense is very strong.

Stopping Mendenhall will be key as well. Since he carried the Steelers offense the first four weeks of the season in Roethlisberger’s absence, you have to respect what the guy can do. He is a lot like Adrian Peterson in the sense that he excels after the first hit. He can bounce off a tackle, change direction, and plow ahead.
Again, the Packers should be up to the task. The Packers rushing defense has been stout all year and since they faced Peterson twice, they should be prepared for Mendenhall

Advantage Overall: Packers

Click here to read Part One of the Super Bowl XLV preview: Packers offense vs Steelers defense


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and


5 thoughts on “Super Bowl XLV Preview Part Two: Steelers Offense Versus Packers Defense

  1. Nice analysis – I agree, our defense should be a very difficult challenge for Ben. Collins may be the key player – he will need to catch those interceptions.

  2. I agree about pretty much everything except your statement that Mendy “..faces a stiff challenge against the Packers rush defense on Sunday.”

    Now, if Dom plays base 3/4, that’s true. If he plays nickel though, I think PIT can run on GB pretty efficiently. It’s a tough call, because Wood is SO good in the slot, and Shields will be extremely valuable against Wallace..

    I’d say this is an even matchup.

  3. The 3-3-5 has nickle D-back personnell and puts Wood on the field along with 3 big run stoppers. That will give a break to our (once again) hurting OLBs (Walden and Zombo both) and add Hawk and Bishop to the run support.

    Against the pass the 3-3-5 does give up a little outside (unless they do a corner blitz) but using three D-linemen puts Raji in the middle against their backup center (or injured starter) to collapse a pocket.

    So this aspect of the game will really depend on the exact personnel matchups Capers can put together against the exact personnell the Steelers have on the field.

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