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Why the Steelers will top the Pack
The Green Bay Packers reside as the feel-good story of the NFL. Reaching the Super Bowl with 15 players on the injured list is an impressive feat.
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However, Green Bay’s run will end with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Here’s why the Steelers will win Super Bowl XLV (FOX pregame at 2 p.m. ET; kickoff at 6).
9. There’s harmony with the Steelers
Teams can’t afford distractions from guys who are not playing, and that’s exactly what happened with the Packers when teammates took to Twitter to complain about not being included in team photos. Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy shouldn’t be devoting time to quelling discord among guys who aren’t involved in the Super Bowl with the biggest game of their lives approach.
The Steelers, on the hand, have been able to focus all of their energies on winning the game, which they shall win in a classic.
8. Steelers have added motivation
The Steelers have all the experience and a better record, yet they’re considered the underdogs. Now, players shouldn’t need “extra” motivation when they’re playing in the Super Bowl, but Pittsburgh’s players have a bit of a chip of their shoulders.
"I think we do our best when we're underdogs," Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke told the Associated Press last week. "People were talking at the beginning of the season how we were going to go 6-10 or 7-9. And how two years ago, when we went to the Super Bowl in '08, we had the toughest schedule in NFL history, 'Are they going to be able to make it out of this schedule?'
"I think when you put our backs against the wall, when you tell us that we're an underdog and we can't do something, that's when we fight and we're at our best."
7. Winning ugly
There will come a point in the game where this game will get bogged down and it will just become brutal and nasty. The Steelers can win that game as they often find unique ways to escape with victories.
Defenses can beat on Roethlisberger, yet he will stand his ground ready to make a big play, a la his late fourth-quarter pass to Antonio Brown to seal the AFC Championship Game.
Rodgers, who is tough, isn’t in Roethlisberger’s league when it comes to taking a pounding and thriving. Early in the fourth-quarter against the Bears, Rodgers took a vicious blow to the head by defensive end Julius Peppers (who was penalized for roughing the passer and later fined) and was not the same player. Before the hit, Rodgers was 15-for-25 for 229 yards. After the hit, he went 2-for-5 for 15 yards and clearly didn’t appear to the same quarterback who torched the Bears earlier in the game.
That said, if the Steelers rough him, so to speak, will he be able to maintain his effectiveness and continue to throw the ball down the field — and with accuracy?
6. Mike Tomlin finds the extra gear for his players
The Steelers almost went 4-0 during Roethlisberger’s suspension, finishing 3-1 after dropping a tight contest to the Ravens in their fourth game. Before the season began, many pundits believed the Steelers would be lucky to go 2-2.
It just seems that Pittsburgh’s young coach always knows what button to push, whether it’s dealing with offseason drama, revamping the offensive line during the season or grinding out wins.
McCarthy has done a tremendous job this season keeping his team together despite all the injuries (including Rodgers’ two concussions). Now, on the biggest stage when adversity strikes, how will McCarthy handle it?
Tomlin’s cool hand has already guided the Steelers to one Super Bowl victory, and there isn’t any evidence to suggest Tomlin or his staff won’t be able to make a key adjustment or motivate the players to make a key play.
5. Troy Polamalu is the best defensive player in the league
His presence changes everything for Pittsburgh. Not only does the pass defense improve, but Polamalu also makes a huge difference in stopping the run. He covers a ton of ground and can lay the smack or pick off passes (seven in 14 regular-season games).
Polamalu gives the Steelers the edge in a battle of two elite defenses.
4. Pittsburgh knows how to handle the distractions
Many of the Steelers have played in multiple Super Bowls. They know what it takes to get it done. Riding the ups and downs of an emotional week before even playing the game can affect even veteran players.
For example, Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson was arrested less than 24 hours before Super Bowl XXXIII in a prostitution scandal. Robinson played against the Denver Broncos and was burned for an 80-yard touchdown pass as Atlanta lost, 34-19.
I’m not saying that the Packers will get into trouble, but knowing how to take care of business while avoiding tempting distractions can be invaluable.
3. The Steelers have a proven running game
If Green Bay isn’t throwing the ball well, it's in deep trouble. Rookie running back James Starks has provided a little boost to the ground game, but the Packers can’t rely on him to win the game.
Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall carried his team to wins over Atlanta and Tampa Bay when Roethlisberger was suspended. And in the AFC Championship Game, he set the tempo early on with his determined runs on his way to getting 121 yards against a fearsome Jets defense. In that game, Roethlisberger threw for only 133 yards, completing 10 of 19 passes.
2. Rodgers has never rallied his team on the big stage
Pundits and fans started believing Rodgers could be the best quarterback in football after he humiliated the Atlanta Falcons defense in the divisional round, going 31 for 36 for 366 passing yards and three touchdowns. Yes, it was one of the best playoff performances in recent memory, but Rodgers hasn’t had to deal with a late deficit this postseason.
To go a step further, he’s failed in his opportunities to put tight games away. In the wild-card round at Philadelphia, the Packers could not run out the clock and instead needed a Tramon Williams interception in the end zone to ice the game.
In the NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears, Green Bay scored no offensive touchdowns in the second half. Again, the defense bailed the team out, first with a B.J. Raji interception return for a touchdown and then with a Sam Shields interception in the red zone with under a minute left.
Fans can point to last season’s crazy wild-card-round loss to the Cardinals. Rodgers did lead his team to 21 fourth-quarter points and the tying touchdown with under two minutes remaining in regulation. However, it was his fumble in overtime that was returned for a touchdown that bounced Green Bay out of the playoffs.
1. Best clutch QB in football
Ben Roethlisberger has wrestled that title away from Tom Brady after leading the Steelers to their third Super Bowl appearance in six years. In that time, he’s led improbable fourth-quarter comebacks that prove his grit and leadership. On the other hand, Brady has lost his past three playoff games.
The Packers know Roethlisberger’s penchant for heroics firsthand when they lost a 2009 heartbreaker to the Steelers because of Big Ben’s moxie. The Arizona Cardinals fell to Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLIII on his late touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes.
Roethlisberger can win any type of game. He can get beaten up, have his nose broken (ask the Ravens this season) and still thrive. He doesn’t always produce gaudy numbers, but he knows how to earn victories, as his 10-2 playoff record attests.
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