When you look at the Steelers and Packers, it's practically impossible to find a clear-cut advantage anywhere. While you tend to think the Steelers are more physical, and the Packers are more finesse-oriented, I don't think there's much difference either way. I'm going to take us on a little ride through the match-ups to see if there's an indication of how the game will play out. I'm not going to spout statistics, because the numbers over the season don't count in this game. Will it be high-scoring or a defensive slugfest; a close game or a blow out? At first glance, who knows?
Steelers Offense vs. Packers Defense:
I'm no fan of Roethlisburger as a person, but he is a tough S.O.B. Getting to him isn't the same as stopping him, with his uncanny ability to shed, sidestep, and extend plays. He's got an excellent stable of receivers in Wallace, Ward, Randel-El, along with the emergence of Emanual Sanders and Antonio Brown. Mendenhall's a great RB, and Heath Miller always shows up when needed. The Problem: The O-Line features an aging Flozell Adams and a backup Center in Legurski.
On the other side of the ball, you've got the anchor at NG in B.J. Raji, playing nose-to-nose with Legurski. Clay Matthews is a non-stop sack machine who'll be matched with Flozell. Cullen Jenkins is back at DE, and played lights out against the Bears. Tramon Williams came out of nowhere to be among the best cover corners in the league, and he'll be charged with trying to stay with Speed Racer Wallace. Then there's Charles Woodson who loves to blitz, and Sam Shields has also played very well.
My take: Pouncey will be sorely missed. Legurski will struggle calling the blocking assignments, and Raji stuffs the middle and creates inside pressure. Matthews will be in Ben's jockstrap a lot, so the Big Boy had better be ready to move. I see Miller making some big plays for Pittsburgh, and Ben getting loose a few times to make plays downfield. Overall, though, I'm giving the advantage to the Packers D.
Packers Offense vs. Steelers Defense:
Whew, this one's a might tougher. Rodgers, in my opinion, is the best all around QB in the league. He's deceptively fast and won't hesitate to run when he needs to. He creates a tremendous challenge with his accuracy and chemistry with his own great WRs (Jennings, Driver, Jones, and my guy Jordy Nelson). Tight end isn't great, but might be a surprise in the red zone. At RB, Starks has been great since coming back. He's not Mendenhall, but he's a big, strong, positive yardage guy. The O-Line isn't great, but they're healthy. The X-Factor could well be Bowling Ball Kuhn.
Across the way, Pittsburgh is beastly in the front seven. The Packers' rookie Brian Bulaga has to block Lamar Woodley, while Chad Clifton has the honor of blocking James "The Fine King" Harrison. The Steelers D-Line is stacked, and their ILBs are dangerous. At CB, Ike Taylor's been playing well, but he'll literally have his hands full. He uses his hands a lot, so there could be yellow hankies to match the terrible towels. McFadden is banged up, which could pose even more problems. So is Polamaulu, which just means he'll have a great game.
My Take: Rodgers will be on the run, but as he did against the Falcons, he'll make plays. Rodgers and his WRs love playing indoors. Still, they're playing the #1 Defense in the league, so the Pack better have some tricks up their sleeve, because "Lebeau knows" defense. I don't see Starks being much of a factor in the run game, though both he and Kuhn could be effective as outlets. The Steelers will get to Rodgers a few times, no doubt. Overall, I'm giving the slightest edge to the Packers, mainly because the Steelers CBs will struggle.
Special Teams: Crosby and Suisham are both reliable kickers. The Packers punter Tim Masthay is amazing at putting backspin on the ball, which could actually prove a huge advantage.
Okay, I guess I've got the edge to the Packers based on my arbitrary and probably meaningless match-up assessment. But, I wouldn't bet on it. I think we'll see a very close game in the 20's; and overtime, however improbable, is definitely a possibility.
So bring it. What have I got wrong, left out, and otherwise screwed up? On the other hand, don't hesitate to agree with me if you think it will really go this way. (Rick loves rec's)