Super Bowl Preview: Steelers vs. Packers

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Let’s take a way too in-depth look at the positional match-ups in the Soup.

QB - Ben Roethlisberger vs. Aaron Rodgers

On paper Aaron Rodgers is clearly the superior passer to Ben Roethlisberger. However, Big Ben does have a rapier wit. But, do the intangibles that Roethlisberger brings to the table make him a better player that his stats sometimes indicate? This season Rodgers managed to beat Roethlisberger in every stat category. He out-gained the Steeler QB by nearly 722 yards and had 13 more touchdowns. Rodgers also managed to rush for 356 yards, which doubles Roeth’s total. The only category that Roethlisberger has the edge is in interceptions, as Rodgers threw 11 and Roethlisberger threw only 5.

It should be noted that Roethlisberger did miss four games this season which would help dampen his stats, but Rodgers also was knocked out early of two games and missed another due to a concussion so that point is kind of mute. The only way we could make up this gap is to argue that Roethlisberger’s ability to win in the playoffs is enough in itself. His record in the playoffs is impressive, at 10-2, and he already has two rings. But, looking back on many of those games it was very rare that Roethlisberger himself willed his team to victory. I’m not saying that Roethlisberger hasn’t played well, he has definitely made plays when he has needed to, it’s just that the Steelers have a lot of weapons and Big Ben just does his job. In the end, if I had to pick one quarterback out of these two to lead my franchise I would have to pick Rodgers.

Advantage: Packers

RB - Rashard Mendehall vs. James Starks/John Kuhn

To even make this a legitimate argument I had to give the Packers two running backs. Until the playoffs started, the Pack’s rushing attack was point-blank enemic. They managed to thrive without an effective runner all year long. Come playoffs James Starks has provided a spark and given the Packers a resemblance of a rushing attack. With the added mix of John Kuhn, who is almost unstopable in short yardage, the Packers’ rushing attack is on the verge of being respectable. On the other side of the ball is Rashard Mendehall, a top 10 running back. He rushed for over 1,200 yards and put it in the end zone 13 times. The former Illinois back is also incredibly reliable at holding on to the football, with only five fumbles in his career. Add in the fact that the Steeler’s have a great 3rd down running back in Mewelde Moore and this matchup isn’t even close. The Steelers’ rushing attack is one of the league’s best and the Packers is not.

Advantage: Steelers

WR – Jennings, Driver, Nelson, Jones vs. Ward, Wallace, Randle El, Brown

This could be the first matchup that looks to be an almost dead heap. Both groups have a bonafide number one wideout and they have a nice mix of depth after that. The Packers are led by Greg Jennings, who has consistently put up solid numbers the past couple of season. Of all the wide receivers in the Soup he has been the best of the bunch. Followed close behind him is Mike Wallace, who has blossomed this season into a top five wide receiver. He is more of a vertical threat and has the speed to burn DB’s constantly. Mix in Hines Ward, who is an excellent position wide receiver and you have the making of a scary two-headed package. The Packers number two wide receiver Donald Driver has been solid when he’s on the field. He has been hampered with injuries all season long. But, still with these injuries his production was not that far off from Ward’s season total. Add in the fact Jordy Nelson and James Jones have managed to out-gain the Steelers 3 and 4 by almost 1,000 yards and the edge shifts towards the Pack simply because of depth.

Advantage: Packers

TE – Heath Miller vs. Andrew Quarles

Heath Miller is one of the best blocking and pass catching tight ends in the league. Andrew Quarles is a back up. That’s it. If Jermichael Finley was playing this could be a close debate. But, he’s not so we don’t. Miller’s blocking ability is a big reason why the Steelers are consistently one of the best rushing teams in the land and he is a huge pass catching tight end on crucial third downs. This one isn’t close.

Advantage: Steelers

O-Line – Scott, Kemoueatu, Pouncey, Foster, and Adams vs. Clifton, Colledge, Wells, Sitton, and Bulaga

It all starts in the trenches and both of these units have excelled despite battling through injuries. The most notable injury is the Steelers’ stud rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, whose left ankle has kept him out of practice all week. Mark this down, he will play. 

Both units gave their respective quarterback plenty of time to throw the ball and were in mid to bottom in sacks against the quarterbacks. The Steelers 0-line gains a slight advantage in managing to produce a more effective rushing attack, although the Packers 0-line may have been more effective had Ryan Grant managed to stay healthy the entire season. In the end, there is no distinguishable fact that separates these two. Both are very solid units and a big reason why their teams are playing in the Soup.

Advantage: Wash

D-Line-  Hood, Hampton, Keisel vs. Raji,  Pickett, Jenkins

Another tough matchup. Both lines main job in the 3-4 formation is to clog the lanes and allow their linebackers and safeties to get pressure on the quarterback. The Steelers d-line, Casey Hampton in particular, is fantastic at stopping the run. They hold opponents to just 68 total rushing yards a game, the next closest was 90. That’s good. The Packers d-line meanwhile gave up around 115 yards a game, but they average that out by compiling 15.5 sacks to the Steelers 7. Still, in the end you have to give the Steel Curtan the advantage. Teams are only rushing for 68 yards a game on them. That’s nuts.

Advantage: Steelers

Linebackers: Mathews, Hawk, Bishop, Walden vs. Woodley, Farrior, Timmons, Harrison

At first glance, I figured this would be a closer matchup, but it’s not even close. Both units are led by All-Pro linebackers in Clay Matthews and Jerome Harrison. After that, the talent separates immensley. James Farrior and Lawerence Timmons are two of the best linebackers at stopping the run in the game. The only linebacker who could possibly measure up to Timmons and Farriors is A.J. Hawk, who fills a similar role in the Packers’ defense. In the end, the stats clearly favor the Steelers with 29.5 sacks to the Packers 17. The Steelers also forced 12 fumbles to the Packers 4 and grabbed one more interception. The Packers linebackers just doesn’t match up the Steelers.

Advantage: Steelers

Defensive Backs: Woodson, Peprah, Collins, Wiliams vs. Taylor, McFadden, Clark, Polamalu

Both of these teams have talent at every position. That is probably why they are playing in The Soup. In the secondary we have defensive players of the year in Charles Woodson and Troy Polamalu. Both excel in pass defense and in stopping the run. In the end, Woodson and Tranon Williams are superior cornerbacks to McFadden and Taylor, while Polamalu and Clark are superior to the Packers Peprah and Collins. Both units are similar in interceptions with 14 and 13. In the end, the Packers’ ability to shut down wide receivers gives them the advantage. But, Polamula is a player that can chance the course of the game at any moment, so it’s a slight advantage.

Advantage: Packers

Returners: Antonio Brown vs. Sam Shields/Tramon Williams

The return game could have a huge impact this Sunday. Remember the last time the Packers won it all it was returnman Desmond Howard who took home MVP honors. A team’s ability of getting better field position can ease the burden of any offense. Antonio Brown gives the Packers a clear advantage. He managed to get 23.5 yards a return compared to Shields/Williams, who managed 20.5 yards a return. However, Brown managed just 6.1 a return on punts while Wiliams managed to get an extra 10.6. The Packers win this one by a nose.

Advantage: Packers

Punters/Kickers: Mason Crosby, Tim Mashtay vs. Shaun Suisham, Jeremy Kapinos

On the punting side of the ball Mashtay averages 43.9 yards with 25 punts inside the 20 with five touchbacks, while the Packers’ Jeremy Kapinos averaged 41.9 yards a put with 7 inside the 20 and three touch backs. Kapinos did get less opportunities, but by breaking down the averages, Mashtay still manages a better rate of pinning teams in the red zone. Kicking we have Shaun Suisham, who resurrected his career in the Steelers by filling in for Jeff Reed. Suisham went 14-for-15 and was perfect in extra points, but he did not attempt any field goals of 50 yards or plus. Mason Crosby was 22-of-28 and perfect in extra points. He managed to go 2 -or-4 from beyond 50. In the end, you could make the argument that Crosby’s ability to make a longer field goal could even out the percentages, but I can’t make that leap. In the end, having a kicker that is this automatic as Suisham gives the the Steelers the edge in punting and kicking.

Advantage: Steelers

The Steelers win five categories to the Packers four. With the Packers excelling in both pass defense and passing attack, while the Steelers excelled in both areas of the ground game. In the end, it should all shape up to be a great game with both teams stacking up well against each other. Whoever forces their will, whether it be the Steelers’ rush attack or the Packers’ passing attack should win the game. Who that will be, time will tell.