Super Bowl QBs have solid support

BY foxsports • February 5, 2011

Super Bowl XLV will pit two storied franchises against each other.

Quarterbacks of the past — Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw — have been replaced by Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.

But don’t get lost on the signal callers.

Both defenses have superstars. You know the names.

Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.

Those are just a few of the key players for the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here’s what to look for from both sides of the ball, special teams and from a coaching standpoint. (FOX pregame at 2 p.m. ET, game time at 6 p.m.)

Offense

There are some similarities between the quarterbacks. Both are athletic and have strong arms.

The difference between the two players probably is pocket discipline.

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers generally leaves the pocket to run when he’s flushed out by the pass rush.

Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger tends to break the pocket even when pressure isn’t there, but he has proved over the years that he’s very capable of throwing the ball well on the run. Part of his success can be attributed to the randomness or unpredictability of his game.

To limit Rodgers’ effectiveness, you must make him jittery. You must get bodies around him. Amazingly, that doesn’t seem to bother Roethlisberger very much. He’s capable of beating the defense even when he seemingly doesn’t know where he’s going with the football. That has to be maddening for a defense.

In a way, you have to make Roethlisberger become a pocket passer. It’s the improvisational types of plays that make him so unpredictable.

The interesting thing is neither team really sets up the pass with the run.

Once the Packers lost starting running back Ryan Grant to a torn ankle ligament after the first regular game, they continued to search for his replacement. Former second-round pick Brandon Jackson never really worked out like the team had hoped, so they turned to rookie James Starks late in the season to carry the load. While Starks’ rush per carry average is less than 4.0, he still gives the Packers the ability to get balance on offense because he’s a decisive runner. But against the Steelers, teams tend to abandon the run because it’s next to impossible to move the ball on the ground against their defensive front. So look for the Packers to use a lot of multiple-receiver sets to spread the secondary out.

The Packers are one of the few teams capable of going four or even five deep at receiver. Several personnel sources FOXSports.com talked to during the week said to expect them to use four-receiver sets for most of the game to gain an advantage. Look for backup receivers James Jones and Jordy Nelson to be factors in this game.

The Steelers have one distinct advantage on offense. Third-year running back Rashard Mendenhall gives Pittsburgh the ability to possess the ball on the ground if they choose to go that route. He is capable of handling 20 carries or more if needed.

But like Green Bay, the Steelers are very capable of spreading out the defense with multiple-receiver sets. The expectation is they will get young receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, who has become a factor in the playoffs, on the field more than usual. And the Steelers have perhaps the most dangerous deep threat in the game in second-year receiver Mike Wallace.

The one area where there is a big concern for the Steelers is clearly on the offensive line. Four out of the five starters to begin the season will not be playing.

The bottom line is you could see a combined 70 or more passes from the quarterbacks. That’s not exactly how the Steelers and Packers from the glory years did it, but it makes for must-see TV.

Defense

It’s rare that you have two defenses that are so similar in the same game, but that’s exactly what we’re looking at.

Both teams use 3-4 fronts. Both use zone blitz concepts.

And the most interesting facet from both defenses is that they use 2-4-5 personnel (two DL, four LB, five DB) quite a bit. It’s that grouping that makes it so confusing for offenses to perform at optimum efficiency.

And both teams have a designated wild card that is tough to prepare for.

Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu is perhaps the most disruptive defender in the NFL, because you never know where he’s going to be lined up.

Packers cornerback Charles Woodson also will line up in the slot, as a linebacker and even off the edge as a blitzer.

Look for the Packers to use overload blitzes with Woodson coming off the edge on either side to exploit the weakness of the Steelers offensive line at the tackle spots.

But don’t forget about perhaps the best defensive player in the NFL (sorry, Steelers fans), outside linebacker Clay Matthews. He’s nearly impossible for opposing offenses to handle because of his speed. The Steelers have outstanding outside pass rushers in LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison.

What you have is two great defenses performing at the top of their game.

Special teams

Neither special teams unit figures to be a major factor.

The Packers and Steelers don’t really have great return games.

However, the Steelers' Emmanuel Sanders has averaged more than 25 yards per kickoff return. He has the kind of speed that could be a factor on a few returns.

And because both teams had only 11 combined touchbacks during the regular season, there should be some chances to return kicks.

The difference on special teams could be with the kickers.

Shaun Suisham (Steelers) has gone 16 of 18 on field-goal attempts including the playoffs.

Mason Crosby (Packers) is 24 for 31 on field-goal attempts including the playoffs.

Coaching

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is already in his second Super Bowl in just four seasons at the helm.

And he has experience behind him.

Defensive coordinator and Hall-of-Famer Dick LeBeau has 37 years of coaching experience. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is in his 18th season in the NFL. Tomlin has put together a veteran staff made up mostly of veteran coaches.

LeBeau and Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers coached together for three seasons (1992-1994), so it will be interesting to see whether either coach has a surprise or two for the opposing team.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will be coaching in his first Super Bowl, so how he handles the pressure in the big game could be a factor in how his team performs. But he has a strong group of assistants.



share story