Gearing up for Super Bowl XLV

Once a year, more Americans sit down to watch television than at any other time. The reason? The Super Bowl. This year will mark the 45th time the game has been played. The matchup features two already remarkably successful organizations — the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers — who together have 18 league championships and this year have the opportunity to add to their decorated histories.

Both the Packers and the Steelers have remarkable similarities entering the game. Both field daunting defenses along with quarterbacks who have the ability to will their teams down the field.

The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger possesses a remarkable ability to escape pocket pressure and throw accurately down field while on the run. Just ask the Jets, who witnessed Roethlisberger torch their secondary after escaping pressure time after time.

On the other side, Aaron Rodgers, who also has the ability to run, predominantly has success as a pocket passer. Rodgers has a cannon of an arm and will keep the Steelers’ defense on their toes all day.

On defense, both teams bring the heat with blitzes that are well-disguised and purely overpowering. In a game where both the teams best assets are at quarterback and on the defensive side of the ball, the key to success is eliminating turnovers. Here is a breakdown on how the teams will fare in all areas of the game.

When the Packers have the ball:

In order to succeed, the Packers must continue to display the ability to run the ball. It was certainly a question mark as they headed into the final weeks of the season, however, it has seemed to mesh the past couple of weeks.

If they cannot run the ball, the Steelers will be able to disguise blitz packages and attack Aaron Rodgers nearly every down. The relentless defense of the Steelers, armed with Troy Polamolu and James Harrison will have the upper hand on the Packers’ offense.

Advantage: Steelers

When the Steelers have the ball:

The Packers must contain Big Ben. If they allow him to buy time by escaping the pocket, he will expose the Packers’ secondary. The pass rush that All-Pro Clay Matthews will bring from the outside will dictate how well the Steelers can move the ball.

Another major factor will be the rushing game. Rashard Mendenhall rattled off multiple explosive runs against the Jets and, if he can do the same against the Pack, it should mean good things for the Steelers. Specifically, they need to set up the play action pass which would neutralize Matthews’ ability to rush the passer.

Advantage: Steelers

Special teams:

In the Super Bowl — a game in which you have the best team from each conference — the outcome usually boils down to who makes the least amount of mistakes. This is exactly why special teams are vital.

Special teams do not see the field nearly as much as the offense or defense, but a big play on special teams is always a monumental momentum changer. It can drastically shift the course of the game with just one muffed punt or field goal. Both kickers have had very consistent seasons, although Shaun Suisham, the Pittsburgh kicker, came in later in the season. Will it factor in?

Doubtful, but it’s something to watch.

Advantage: Draw

The Verdict:

Both coaching staffs are excellent and prepare their players very well. I can nearly guarantee a team does not lose because of the coaching.  Knowing this, I expect the key matchup to be Clay Matthews versus Ben Roethlisberger. Matthews is an outstanding pass rusher but has yet to face a quarterback who has legs the size of oak trees and the ability to escape the rush with ease.

Obviously I am not an NFL coach or ESPN analyst, but I would expect Clay Matthews to shadow Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger does not have the nimbleness of Michael Vick, but he is that much more effective when he leaves the pocket and the Packers must eliminate his time to throw down field in order to win.

The Prediction:

As a Patriots fan, I do not want to see Big Ben Roethlisberger get a third Super Bowl ring, spurring debate on whether he is better than Tom Brady because that is ridiculous and an argument for another day. However, I do think they are the better team. The fact that the Steelers were unable to generate any points in the second half versus the Jets should be a concern and should allow the Packers to develop an effective scheme.

This will be a close game that will come down to which quarterback can make the bigger play down the stretch in the fourth quarter. If I was a betting man, I would pick the Steelers, but I am not. In my heart, as a Patriots fan, I see the Packers winning 27-21.