From Dallas, Texas
It has been one of the best pre-Super Bowl weeks that I can remember in sometime. Forget the unusual weather in Dallas, and the city’s inept handling of the roads and removal of ice. From the time this championship matchup was set a fortnight ago, Super Bowl 45 has been about football.
The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers bring together one of the most storied title games of the last 50 years. This is what pro football is about, both its past and its present. The teams that take the field under the direction of the Packers’ Mike McCarthy and the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin are the most recent inductees to a special fraternity of green and gold and black and gold legends.
From Nitschke to Matthews, Bradshaw to Roethlisberger, this is a continuation of a legacy that built the game, creating the potential for one of the most fascinating of Super Bowls.
So much has been written and said of what should happen today, it’s time to put a close to the previews. The players and coaches will put it on the line later Sunday at the Cowboys Stadium. It’s time for the folks of bobgretz.com to put it on the line.
There are important matchups across the board in this game for both teams. But once I boiled it all down, I think it falls on the Packers offense against the Steelers defense that will decide this game.
Green Bay has no running game, and in this case that’s OK because the Steelers don’t let anybody run the ball. So if the Packers can’t get their run game rolling, it’s no big deal.
What the cheeseheads can do is move the ball through the air. Aaron Rodgers is a quarterback who has taken his already good game to another level in the post-season. Remember that the Packers have really played five win-or-else games in the last six weeks. They had to win their final two regular season games just to make the playoffs and they’ve won three in the post-season.
Rodgers has been the leader, producer and driving force behind this franchise and he will be so again. He will see the Blitzburgh defense come after him, but he has the ability to escape and make something happen down the field.
Where Pittsburgh is weak is their secondary, especially on the corners and the more and more I look at this game, the more it becomes clear to me that Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and the Packers crew are going to be too much; Troy Polamalu is the best defensive player in the game, but he can’t cover everybody.
I have black and gold in my DNA. The Steelers have been a subject of excitement and aggravation throughout my life. It’s hard – damn hard – to pick against them in any contest. But this pick is with my head and not my heart.
Packers 27, Steelers 21
KENT P.’S PICK
I like the Packers on Sunday, but I have to say it is more about my sense of symmetry than anything strategic. And perhaps it is what I want to happen more than what I think will happen. When people I know and like are involved, then I would prefer they win.
● I like Mike McCarthy. When he was the Chiefs offensive quality control coach in the early 1990s I would never have suspected he would become such a good head coach.
● I like Dave Redding, the Packers assistant strength and conditioning coach. He was one of my favorites on Marty Schottenheimer’s staff, and he taught me things about nutrition and fitness.
● I like Jordy Nelson and the idea that a small-town Kansas kid can be successful. And it would reflect positively on the Kansas State football program.
● On the flip side, I like Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. He got his start in the NFL as running backs coach on Schottenheimer’s first Kansas City staff in 1989.
● And I love Dan Rooney, the Steelers owner. His father Art Rooney, the team’s original owner, was one of the class acts in the history of the league. Dan doesn’t fall far from that tree and has been the voice of reason on many NFL issues.
So there you have it, the Packers win 3-2.
To give you a strategic reason, the defenses are a toss-up, but I like what Aaron Rodgers can do with his feet. He’ll have to extend plays against the Steelers pass rush, and if he gets any protection at all he can be the difference maker. He’s been the hottest quarterback in the league down the stretch, and I like the hot hand.
Back to symmetry . . . I also like the Packers to win the first game in Lamar Hunt’s hometown. Hunt is the man who brought pro football to the Midwest with his formation of the AFL. He even coined the name “Super Bowl.” And it would be fitting if the team that won the first Super Bowl wins the first Super Bowl in Lamar’s home town.
No, I don’t think it really will be 3-2. I like the Packers with Big Ben tossing an interception on the drive that would have tied the score late in the game.
Packers 31, Steelers 24
Like every other fan, I consider the Pittsburgh-Green Bay Super Bowl nothing short of a dream come true. And yet, Sunday’s contest between the Steelers and the Packers represents the worst-case scenario that I can face as a prognosticator, because it brings up the one dilemma that can make me revisit a prediction over and over again (in this case, 37 times to be exact): a team whom I WANT to win pitted against a team that I THINK will win.
After watching the Packers put 16 players on injured reserve; earn their post-season ticket in the last game of the regular season; and roll through Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago in impressive fashion, it’s almost impossible for me not to root for Green Bay appreciative as I am of those who don’t flinch at the first sign of adversity; as well as admiring of those that somehow find the inner strength to get things done the hard way. Throw in the fact that the leader of this squad is a man (Aaron Rodgers) whose handling of an otherwise no-win situation (following in the footsteps of a legend) has been flawless, and it’s not like I have to present more evidence in order to draw more sympathy towards the Cheeseheads.
Conversely, it ain’t that hard to understand why I can’t take my eyes off the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whether you like him or not, no one can deny that Ben Roethlisberger is as tough/ competitive/clutch a performer as there is along the lines of the quarterbacking position. In Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller and Rashard Mendenhall, the Men of Steel possess enough playmakers of their own to complicate matters for the Packers’ defense. And if you’ve followed the defensively-coordinated-by-Dick-LeBeau Steelers long enough, you just know that James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, & Co. will do everything (and I mean legal, illegal or in-between) within their power to win what seemingly will be the deciding matchup of the evening (read, the Steelers’ D vs. Aaron Rodgers). Spice this last assumption with the consideration that it hasn’t been that long since the Steelers found themselves in a similar position, and you’ll certainly believe me if I told you that in 100 out of 100 opportunities, I couldn’t pick them as winners of Super Bowl XLV fast enough.
Thing is…not this weekend – if only because I don’t lose sight that this game will still be regarded as the closing act of the ’10 season. The most unpredictable ever as stated by several pundits; and probably the craziest that I’ve ever seen. One where – according to the opening line in Vegas – a 3-point victory of a 6th seed over a 12-win, Two-Super-Bowls–in-the-last-5-years team would be consider a cover and not an upset.
And in all truthiness, I can’t envision a more appropriate ending to it.
Packers 24, Steelers 21