Editor's Predictions: Super Bowl
The Editor's agree: The Steeler ground game is the key.
By: Braden Gall | 2/5/11, 2:01 AM EST
Athlon's editorial staff offers its predictions and insight for Super Bowl XLV:
Steven Lassan, Editor (@AthlonSteven)
This looks to be one of the more even Super Bowl matchups in recent memory. The Steelers and Packers are virtual mirror images of each other, with Pittsburgh owning a slight edge at running back. The status of Steelers' center Maurkice Pouncey is one of the biggest question marks surrounding this game. Offensive line issues have been a concern for Pittsburgh all season and losing one of the best centers in the league is a major issue. If the Steelers get quality play from Doug Legursky and can establish Rashard Mendenhall on the ground, Pittsburgh should have the edge. The Packers won't be afraid to push the tempo on offense and get the Steelers out of their rhythm. Pittsburgh's secondary has been vulnerable at times this year, which faces a difficult task trying to slow down Aaron Rodgers and one of the NFL's top receiving corps. It wouldn't be a surprise to see this game play out like Super Bowl 43. The Steelers will take an early lead, only to watch the Packers get on track on offense and pull ahead in the fourth quarter. However, the experience of the Steelers in the Super Bowl, and Ben Roethlisberger's ability to make plays in the clutch gives Pittsburgh title No. 7. Steelers 27, Packers 24.
Braden Gall, Editor (@AthlonBraden)
It is downright scary how similar these two teams. Improv talent at quarterback that would impress even the crowds at The Apollo. A Defensive Player of the Year in the secondary - and (almost) at linebacker. Two of the most dynamic 3-4 front-seven schemes to ever grace a football field. The difference will be the power running game of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two front-seven match-ups to watch are Packers' nose guard B.J. Raji against injured center Maurkice Pouncey and whoever is blitzing against Green Bay's rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga. In the passing game, both nickel packages will have their hands full with third and fourth receivers - Aaron Rodgers abused Bears' nickelback Tim Jennings. Expect both quarterbacks to make plays against the blitz, but whoever can convert on third and short, and around the goalline, will win. I will take the Steel Curtain defense to stop the Pack when it counts. Pittsburgh 20, Green Bay 14.
Rob Doster, Senior Editor (@AthlonDoster)
I like the Packers, but to me, there are a couple of keys. For one, the Packer pass rush will need to put Ben Roethlisberger on the ground. Hitting Big Ben is not enough; he’s the king of sloughing off sacks and turning losses into big plays. Plus, Aaron Rodgers will have to continue his magical run. It seems unlikely that the Pack will have much success on the ground, so the onus falls on Rodgers to make plays through the air. This is Rodgers’ opportunity to stamp himself as a truly elite quarterback. I think he’s up to the task. Packers by 3.
Charlie Miller, Editorial Director (@AthlonCharlie)
With two defenses that thrive on keeping offenses off balance, expect big plays and big mistakes by both offenses. Both teams will be stingy on defense, and both teams can run the ball. Both quarterbacks can handle blitzing schemes and answer with clutch plays. The difference will be that the Steelers’ quarterback will make one or two key mistakes giving the Packers’ defense the advantage. Aaron Rodgers will protect the ball better while still making key throws for Green Bay. Green Bay 27, Pittsburgh 20.
Mitch Light, Managing Editor (@AthlonMitch)
These teams are built in a similar fashion. Both have mobile quarterbacks who can beat you with their arm or scramble out of trouble and make plays with their legs. The collection of offensive skill players on both teams is good but not elite. The defenses are both outstanding and headlined by tremendous individual talents like Clay Matthews and Troy Polumalu. I think the difference in the game could be Rashard Mendenhall, who I believe is one of the more underrated backs in the league. Green Bay's James Starks has been very good, but Mendenhall is a proven commodity. Pittsburgh 27, Green Bay 20.
Patrick Snow, Editor (@AthlonSnowman)
The Super Bowl should be a close game, with two stellar defenses dictating the tempo for the most part. The key to this Super Bowl will be which offense can score sevens instead of threes. Both defenses can withstand a turnover or two, as evidenced by the fact that both of their quarterbacks had no touchdown passes, two interceptions each, and QB ratings under 60 in conference title wins. Obviously a big play score could turn this game either way, but I’ll take the tough running of Mendenhall to make the difference. I’ll predict the Steelers to win, Troy Polamalu to be the best player on the field, and Roethlisberger to get all the credit. Pittsburgh 23, Green Bay 20.
Matt Taliaferro, Senior Designer/Editor (@MattTaliaferro)
The way Green Bay ripped through a tough Atlanta team - one many felt was the best in the NFC - with surgical precision, and then won on the road, in the elements against an archrival, has been nothing short of amazing. Pittsburgh undoubtedly has the Super Bowl experience in its favor, but once the chaos of the two weeks leading up to the game is over, I think the Packers are the better squad. Aaron Rodgers will face his toughest playoff test yet in the Steeler defense, but he’s up to the task. Green Bay 27, Pittsburgh 21.
Corby Yarbrough, Graphic Designer/Editor: (@AthlonCorby)
Neither the Steelers nor Packers surrender much to the run game. Pittsburgh has allowed over 100 yards rushing to a team just twice this year, and Green Bay's defense has clamped down the last six games, allowing 100-plus just twice (113 and 110) and under 100 through three playoff games. Pittsburgh will need to get major production from Rashard Mendenhall to win, but if Green Bay can just get respectable production from James Starks (75 yards), allowing Aaron Rodgers and the passing game to thrive, the Packers will become just the second sixth seed in Super Bowl history — ironically Pittsburgh in 2005 is the other — to claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Green Bay 24, Pittsburgh 20.
Nathan Rush, Editor
Start waving the Terrible Towels, because the Pittsburgh Steelers are about to claim their seventh Super Bowl title. Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and the rest of Dick LeBeau’s Hits-burgh defense will finally slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. Without any semblance of a running game against the powerful Steel Curtain front seven, a one-dimensional Pack attack will rely on A-Rodg to throw the ball nearly every down. In a relatively low-scoring, physical, close game, Big Ben Roethlisberger will find a way to win in the fourth quarter and raise the Lombardi Trophy for the third time in his career. Steelers by 3.
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