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Super Bowl XLV Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers

(Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
Getty Images

I know we're all a little upset we're not seeing the Colts play in the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year, but the Super Bowl looks, on paper at least, to be highly entertaining, matching up two very even teams.  How even are they?  My Predictor has them only 0.2 points apart.  So ya, it's close.

The Steelers come into the Super Bowl having defeated the Ravens and Jets at home (sound familiar?) after finishing 12-4 on the season, winning the AFC North.  The Steelers were in the Super Bowl just two short years ago, defeating the Cardinals 27-23, winning their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history.  They are 6-1 all time in the Super Bowl, with only a 27-17 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX.

The Packers had a slightly more difficult road to the Super Bowl, having to go on the road and win three games as the #6 seed, the first team in NFC history to do so.  They beat the Eagles, destroyed the Falcons, and survived against their hated rivals the Bears two weekends ago in the NFC Championship game. This is their first Super Bowl appearance since SB XXXII, a 31-24 loss to the Broncos. They did win the Super Bowl the year before, a 35-21 win over the Patriots.

These two teams met last season in one of the best games of the year.  The Steelers had lost 5 games in a row, and it looked like it was going to be a sixth when Aaron Rodgers found James Jones for a TD, putting the Packers up 36-30 with 2:06 to go.  The Steelers had to start at their own 14 yard line, but marched down the field, and on the final play of the game, Ben Roethlisberger found Mike Wallace on the sideline in the end zone for a 19 yard Touchdown, tying the game at 36.  They added the PAT, winning the game 37-36.  The teams combined for 886 yards passing, including 503 from Roethlisberger.

How do these two teams matchup in 2010?  Let's find out:

Statistical Matchup (Adjusted Stats):

Statistic Steelers Packers
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 69.8% 15 64.6% 6 73.2% 7 64.4% 4
ANPY/A 7.149 3 4.017 2 7.138 4 3.852 1
Turnovers 1.03 3 2.26 3 1.24 7 2.06 6
Yds/Drive 31.57 10 25.54 5 34.13 5 27.17 10
ToP/Drive 3:01.0 5 2:36.0 10 3:03.0 1 2:36.0 9
Yds/Play 5.475 9 4.554 2 5.753 5 5.018 11
First Downs/Drive 1.70 13 1.56 10 1.87 9 1.53 7
3rd/4th Down 42.2% 10 33.8% 3 40.8% 14 36.1% 11
Avg Start Pos 33.2 2 30.5 17 31.3 11 29.6 10
3 and Outs 3.15 6 3.76 18 3.59 13 4.04 13
RZ Eff 69.3% 11 54.2% 1 65.6% 17 62.6% 15
Plays/Drive 5.742 12 5.540 14 5.907 8 5.435 9
Penalty Yds / Play 0.868 21 0.752 24 0.677 8 0.779 17
RB Success 43.0% 23 35.5% 1 49.0% 5 49.1% 26
Yds/Carry 3.98 19 3.10 1 4.07 16 4.64 29
Net Punts Yds/Game 41.31 2 37.07 6 38.37 19 40.50 28
Overall 8 3 3 6

Statistical Keys to the Game:

  • Statistically, these are the two best teams in the NFL, and you can certainly see that by these rankings, which are littered with single-digits.  It doesn't happen every year, but this year it certainly is the case.
  • The Steelers were middle-of-the-road when it comes to Drive Stats, while the Packers defense is very good getting opposing offenses off the field.  For the Steelers to win, they'll need to sustain drives like they did against the Jets.
  • The Packers lone weak spot on defense is their run defense, so look for Rashard Mendenhall to carry the load once again.  The more of him we see, the better the Steelers will do.
  • On the flip side of the ball, 3rd and 4th Down Conversions will be key for the Packers, as the Steelers defense is great at getting the other team off the field on those downs.  The Packers aren't bad, but need to have a good game converting to win.
  • Red Zone Success will also be essential for a Packers victory, as the Steelers are best in the NFL in Red Zone defense, while the Packers are merely average.  If the Steelers can force Field Goals, look for them to hoist the Lombardi trophy.

Other Keys to the Game:

  • The match-up between Aaron Rodgers and Troy Polamalu.  Polamalu always seems to be around the football, and wreaks havoc on opposing offenses.  Rodgers will need to move him around the field with his eyes, and try to avoid him.
  • Experience.  Most of this Steelers team has played in the Super Bowl, while the Packers have very few with Super Bowl experience.  It's debated every year whether experience actually matters in a game like this, and it probably doesn't hurt to know what it will be like.
  • Late-game strategy and execution.  Twice this postseason the Packers have narrowly escaped game-winning drives by their opponent, intercepting passes inside their own 5 yard line both times.  Head Coach Mike McCarthy routinely goes very conservative late in games with the lead, causing heart attacks for Packer fans.  The Steelers are excellent at putting games away, as well as scoring when they are behind.  If it comes down to the Steelers needing a late TD, the advantage will lie with Pittsburgh.
  • The Packers have never trailed by more than 7 points all season, the first time that has ever happened in the Super Bowl era.  If they get down by more than 7, they'll have to do something they haven't done all season, which is come from more than one score down.


For those of you following Eric's Prediction Contest for the Playoffs, I've only gotten two of the ten playoff games correct, while my Predictor is 8-2.  So naturally I should listen to the Predictor, right?  Well, I'll keep the final score the same, but I'm switching the teams around.  I think the Packers have a great offense and a very good defense, while the Steelers have a great defense, but just a good offense.  Aaron Rodgers will be the MVP, and the Packers will have their 4th Super Bowl title.

Packers 24, Steelers 23