Sir Hayes — Through 17 regular season weeks. Through 3 playoff weeks. Through 32 NFL Franchises. We have gotten down to the magic numbers. 2 teams. 1 game. 1 trophy. Sunday, the Packers and Steelers play what could be our last Pro football game for a long time. The world will be watching. The world will be making their picks. WHO is going to win the Superbowl?

Simply put: The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl.

Why: The Steelers have experience. They have a great running game that can absolutely devour time off the clock (see: 1st drive in the AFC Championship). They have a stellar defense. Oh… and I haven’t picked the Packers once this playoffs, so why start now?”

Rob — WHY? Exactly right. You’ve been wrong about Green Bay all this time, why start now? I’m perfectly comfortable picking them… CONTINUING to pick them just like I’ve done the entire way, picking up correct predictions all the while, too. My reasons for picking them continue to be the same: their offense and defense. Simple enough, yes?

Mindcricket — I have to side with the Packers as well. I haven’t bought into the Steelers all year and am not about to start now. Baltimore handed them the game two weeks ago and I’d be shocked to hear anyone think otherwise. Similarly, this vaunted Steelers defense couldn’t lay a hand on Mark Sanchez despite the ability to pass rush every down with a big lead. Troy Polomalu has not been playing up to his usual ability, repeatedly missing tackles. I think Aaron Rodgers beats this defense like a drum, just like Kurt Warner a couple years ago only there won’t be any inexplicable 105-yard interception returns right before half-time. The Packers are too well-constructed to beat themselves the way other teams have against the Steelers.

JMB — Simply put: The Pittsburgh Steelers will win Super Bowl XLV. I’ve picked The Steelers over GB in the Super Bowl since the beginning and I’m not changing now.

Why: The Steelers have tremendous experience is pressure situations, the running game to eat clock when necessary, a tremendous defense, a coach with a killer instinct, and two X-factor playmakers in Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu who make game changing plays when the fate of the game hangs in the balance. I’m sure we’ll discuss all of these things as the discussion continues. In response to early statements.

As far as Baltimore handing them the game? Mistakes happened, but it takes someone to cause/capitalize on that. Holding the Ravens to 126 total yards and only one drive of 68 yards is telling. As for the second half against the Jets, the Steelers greatly turned down the aggression with the big lead (much to my chagrin) to prevent big plays and eat clock, and let’s be honest, there was a bit of intensity drain given the 24-0 lead. I’m not one to call of the dogs, but I have a hard time questioning them in victory. Also, while Polamlu has missed a few tackles, he’s also been playing deep in coverage as of late in both the Ravens/Jets games, so it’s hard to judge how well he is playing when he’s not blitzing or making a spectacular INT, but rather taking away something from the other side. Lastly, while I think the Packers receivers are good, the Steelers found a way to at least hang with Warner, Fitzgerald, and Boldin – let’s not write them off against Rodgers, Jennings, Driver. I will say though that Rodgers worries me with the quick slant plays because of the ability to eat clock in lieu of a running game.”

Sir Hayes — Rob, while picking Green Bay on the basis of their “offense and defense” more than makes sense in the first 3 rounds, here is where that method and ideology falls apart. They don’t have the defensive advantage. They don’t have the offensive advantage. Green Bay is better at one position, Wide Reciever. Not light years better, but noticeably better, for sure. I see QB as a push, but with a slight edge to Big Ben because he’s been here… TWICE. He’s won it… TWICE. Rodgers has the sexier numbers, and that’s mostly due to how much his team throws the ball, but if you break it down? Its even at best, for Rodgers, and in my opinion, Ben gets the nod.

Mindcricket — Big Ben having “been there” doesn’t hold any water for me. First of all, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees flipped that notion on its head just a year ago. But more importantly, Big Ben has not been the key to either Steeler victory and in fact I’d argue he held them back more than helped. His Super Bowl XL performance was abysmal, with 9 completions, 2 picks, and a 22.6 rating. And we all (even Ben) know he didn’t get in the end zone on that run, so don’t even try it. In Super Bowl XLIII, were it not for Santonio Holmes (the actual MVP) making acrobatic catch after acrobatic catch downfield, the Cardinals roll easily. I’ll concede Ben has a knack for making a play when needed, but I don’t think making one or two 3rd down conversions is going to be enough to keep up with Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay passer has 10 passing touchdowns and 3 rushing touchdowns against just 3 picks in 4 career playoff games. Dating back to Super Bowl XL, Roethlisberger has 7 passing TDs and 2 rushing TDs (one bogus of course) against 8 picks in 7 games. I think those numbers speak for themselves regarding what each quarterback brings to the table in the playoffs.

JMB — The “”been there/done that”” argument isn’t so much just being in the Super Bowl gives you experience, its the idea that you come through when the game is on the line. I’m not just speaking of the Super Bowl itself, but playoffs in general. Everyone harps on Super Bowl XL but forgets all the other good playoff games he’s had – especially in the run up to XL when he posted two 140+ QB ratings, and 95 in another! Let’s also not forget in the Steeler runs have forced them through Baltimore multiple times, and a great defense in the Jets another. Ben’s competition on WHOLE has hardly been lackluster. In fact, on whole for a career, Ben’s QB rating in the playoffs is 85.4 and Brady is 85.7. For someone who is “”the QB”” of the league in Brady and had much playoff success, it speaks to the fact that on whole, Ben has performed well in the Steelers playoff runs. Also, let’s not simply dismiss him for Super Bowl XLIII – the catch was made possible by Ben buying time and making a GREAT through over multiple defenders, and he had to lead them on that drive in the first place. Speaking of which, Ben has the most 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives of any QB in his first seven seasons.

As for Rodgers, he has been QUITE impressive, but let’s not forget of his 10 TDS, 4 of them game in one game, the highest scoring game in playoff history against the Cardinals, and in that game the Packers lost due to a Rodgers fumble that was returned for a TD. Don’t get me wrong, Rodgers has been great, but when has the game really been “”on the line”” outside of the Cardinals game which he lost in OT. In Philly, the Eagles were hobbled badly. The Falcons were simply outmatched with an offense that couldn’t push the ball, and they had peaked. Lastly we all know what happened with Culter-gate. I’m not saying Rodgers’ numbers haven’t been impressive, but that in his experience he’s not had to put the game on his shoulders and lead the Packers in crunch time and done it successfully. Ben has in multiple games.

I’d actually argue somewhat that Green Bay may have a slight edge in O-Line, but that the WR’s are a push or actually favor the Steelers. Mike Wallace had only 8 fewer yards than Greg Jennings on 16 fewer catches, and Hines Ward compares quite favorably to James Jones as the number two with Ward a better blocker/possession guy and Jones perhaps now with the athleticism advantage although Ward has more catches/yards. The third WR I’d say its roughly even again given Driver’s experience vs. the Brown/Sanders speed advantage and the rookies have come on as the season progressed. Also, looking deeper at Jordy Nelson/Randle El – I think Randle El has the advantage and the element of trick plays. The Steelers have the clear advantage now at TE with Miller and GB without Finley. Remember too the Steelers numbers are also influenced by 4 games without Ben in the lineup.

As for the defense, across the board its almost a push but it would break down for me like this. DL – push with Smith out of the lineup for Pittsburgh. LB – Edge Pittsburgh. CB – Huge edge to GB. Safeties – Edge Pittsburgh. Now that is somewhat complicated by the GB alignment that has Woodson at safety, but I’m not sure they can play that against the Steelers in this game.

Special Teams – GB has a huge advantage at K/P – return game about even.

I do echo the previous post though that its really nitpicking in “”advantages””. It’s not really who has the better players at this point, it’s who’s going to be able to execute. That’s why I favor the Steelers as they’ve shown that they can execute in this high pressure/intensity situations.”

Sir Hayes — I disagree Green Bay’s depth at WR is much better. Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson push it in Green Bay’s favor. Yes, Michael Wallace is the biggest deep threat in the game, but Jennings is a much better all around reciever who can also go deep and break a huge catch and run. No argument that Pitt has the TE advantage.

Rodgers numbers have been aided by playing some soft defenses. He rolled up amazing numbers against Arizona last year… it was ARIZONA, and that game was a track meet, played indoors. He had a good game against the Eagles who were the worst redzone defense in the league, and had a suspect secondary and a terrible linebacking corps. Played what looked like an overrated Atlanta team, again in a dome, and lit them up, fourth of July style. Played Chicago and outside of the 1st drive looked pedestrian the rest of the game.

Oh and “”what Josh said”” as far as Ben’s experience. Look at Ben’s numbers and record against Baltimore over the last 3 or 4 seasons. Yes he was shaky in his first Superbowl, but he has demonstrated himself as a “”big game”” quarterback, who comes through in the clutch. He orchestrated that drive against Arizona, he threw that ball just about perfectly to Santonio. “

Gools — Sir Hayes, Push at QB? Give me Rodgers any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Big Ben has won, but that’s because he’s been around an extra 5 years and has the Steelers handing him a great defense to make up for his really crappy games (Seattle SuperBowl!). Rodgers doesn’t have bad games. Pack has better WRs as far as depth goes and better top tier talent with Jennings. Offensive Line is Pack with the way their tackles have played coupled with the Poucey injury for the Steelers. Steelers get the TE edge with Heath. On defense, Steelers have the advantage at LB, but not by much. We only think so because Harrison is in the news every week trying to murder someone on the field. Clay Matthews is the defensive player of the year! D-Line is the Packers and the Pack crush in the secondary – 2 top tier CBs in Woodson and Tramon. I give the Steelers the slight edge in special teams and a huge edge in coaching. I maintain that McCarthy is the new Andy Reid – awful game manager.

All that said, I’m taking the Steelers. Reason 1: Packers are my team and will surely ruin the day for me. Reason 2: Don’t dispel the experience edge. Many of the Steelers’ players have done this once if not twice already – they will not be affected by the big stage. Reason 3: The Packers are creating distractions off the field for themselves. The game is big enough guys. Worry about getting the trophy and the rings and then figure out the pictures afterwards! If the Pack can hang within 3 in the final half-quarter, then I’ll believe, but I think the big stage is going to keep them down by around 10 throughout.

Steelers 31 – Packers 23

Discounting Rodgers’ numbers because of who he played? He put those numbers up against ARZ on the road against the defending NFC Champ – he didn’t have the opportunity to play against the Giants or the Saints or whatever last year. And he won 3 road games this year while lighting it up! He played against who was on the schedule and has never wavered. God, I hate that argument. Rodgers, you aren’t that good, you only beat the #3, #1 and #2 seeds on the road, but you didn’t play the Ravens or Jets or …

Rodgers won’t be the issue here. I’m scared of penalties and missed assignments on defense for the Pack – distractions during the week of practice can lead to lapses on the field.”

JMB — Hey man I can understand liking the Packers, and hey I’m a Steelers guy myself, but I think you’re vastly underrating the Steelers here, especially at LB. If you look at the numbers, the sacks and turnovers created by that group is rather incredible. Granted the “”tackles”” number is a bit iffy, but check out the Harrison/Matthews comparison.

Matthews: 60 Tack, 13.5 Sacks, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 INT

Harrison: 100 Tack, 10.0 Sacks, 6 Forced Fumbles, 2 INT

I’d say its even, maybe an edge to Harrison when you consider the turnovers. Also, if you look at Woodley on the opposite side.

Woodley: 50 Tack, 10 Sacks, 3 Forced Fumbles, 2 INT – the sacks numbers and turnovers are also in Matthews league. If you compare the tackles and turnovers for the rest of the crews, I’d even favor Pittsburgh on that. Granted the Pack get more pass rush out of the line, especially Cullen Jenkins, but that’s somewhat by design as the Packer line favors pass rush and the Steelers line favors collapsing the line and the run defense.

As for the Corners – HUGE edge with the Packers corners with Woodson and Tramon, but Taylor is a good CB – the weak link is McFadden on pass coverage, but let’s not forget Polamalu and Clark in the secondary, and Troy is a huge advantage.

I wouldn’t give the Steelers an edge in Special Teams at all as I’d take Crosby over Suisham any day and the Steelers kick coverage is OFTEN shaky. Steeler fans live in fear of the KR/PR being our undoing, although the squib attack has helped us recently, it very easily could backfire. I would take Tomlin over McCarthy any day, but the coordinators really help out GB. I am a HUGE fan of Lebeau but Capers really puts some creativity in the zone blitz that I really admire, and I think if anyone now he could find a way to slow Ben down. Capers may not be HC material, but he’s a TOP coordinator in my opinion.

Lastly, the Rodgers stats – everything comes with a comparison and context. Of course you play who is on your schedule! That’s why I find the argument that so and so didn’t play “”insert team X – Patriots, Saints, etc”” a moot point when talking about a Championship run. However, in looking at performance, you have to take everything in context. Has Rodgers performed well? Absolutely. Has he done it against teams with the same momentum and talent on D? Not yet. That doesn’t mean he’s incapable, it just means this is an opportunity to show how good he is.”

Gools — I’m not discounting the Steelers – I just think the Packers have more talent even with their IR woes. Don’t get me wrong, Pittsburgh is an ELITE team. I hate them, but I’m not shy about giving them props. Their linebackers are some of the best in the game; in fact, I’ll slightly lean their way after looking a little closer at the overall unit. However, the Packers have a pretty darn good crew too – I just don’t think that the Steelers are overwhelming favorites there. Don’t discount how much of a difference Clay Matthews makes.

As for the Polamalu angle, my main question is “”Is he healthy?”” I don’t think so. Watching the game versus the Jets, he was out of position and unable to make up ground on multiple occasions. The thing with Troy is that he’s a game-changing ball-hawk. He’s okay in coverage and above-average against the run, but he’s made his HOF name by picking his moments to make a read, and now he doesn’t seem to have the burst due to his knee to close on those reads. Maybe I’m wrong, but the guy I saw in the AFC Championship game didn’t look right, and I think Rodgers will exploit that.

In the end, it doesn’t come down to Matthews/Hawk vs. Woodley/Timmons/Harrison or Polamalu/Clark/Taylor vs. Woodson/Williams/Shields/Collins. It’s Steelers D getting to Rodgers and creating turnovers and Ben staying alive vs. Jenkins/Matthews and not throwing the ball to Charles and Tramon. On a neutral field not on a big stage, I think the Packers win this 27-21 or something like that, but I have a bad feeling that the off-field stuff and the first time at the SuperBowl puts the Pack behind the 8 ball mentally. I say Steelers march down and score 7, force a turnover and score again before the Packers even wake up. It’ll be an uphill battle from there and I see the Pack closing within 3-7 in the 3rd before the Steelers salt a drive away and hold a double-digit lead in the 4th. Big game experience will provide the extra oooooomph.

do do doo, dado doo do
Go Pack Go”

JMB — Well, I’ll do more than “”slightly lean”” in favoring the Steelers Linebackers in giving them the nod here. In fact, I’d probably say if you look across the top 4 with the stats noted they are the best LB crew in the NFL and if any group in the NFL was capable of getting heat on Rodgers it would be that unit. Clay Matthews is an impact player, to be sure, but Pittsburgh has at least two of them in that unit in Woodley/Harrison.

It’s a good question about Polamalu’s health though. I’m not sure if he is healthy or not, but two weeks is a lot of time to make him as healthy as he’s going to be. I know they have been playing him deep in coverage, and maybe he’s slower than he was, but I think Rodgers would be foolish to test a future HOF’er. Again maybe he’s slow, but are you going to put the ball near him with the game on the line? There’s a really nice article by Johnette Howard on “”The Polamalu Effect”” which boils down to the following, a full TD per game less, almost a yard per play less, and a turnover per game.

Granted while none of the “”whose unit is better”” matters to an extent – you’re right that its O vs. D not D vs. D – it is fun to compare. Which QB will stay alive? My guess is that actually the GB LB’s will get to Ben more given the Pittsburgh O-line and the fact that Ben holds on to the ball. He almost expects to get hit and Kevin Greene/Capers have been working to come at his right so he has to pull the ball down. That seems to come from the territory here, and I don’t expect it to rattle Ben, but on the flipside when Rodgers is harassed I don’t expect him to be rattled either. Both QB’s have poise, its just a matter of who is going to make the plays.

Also, don’t sell your Packers short based on experience/the stage (or pick against them for that reason). Experience is a wash in these things: re: Buffalo Bills (and others). The Super Bowl week has plenty of distractions for both teams between picture-gate and Ben’s bathroom episodes, but as long as none of the players are gettign arrested for prostitution, stabbed by his wife, or on some crazy bender, these won’t really hold anyone back. When its go time, they will be ready. “

Mindcricket — First, just to clear up a point that seemed to be misunderstood – when I said Holmes made acrobatic catch after acrobatic catch, I wasn’t referring to the last touchdown only. If I recall he had an amazing 40 yard reception on the drive leading up to the redzone as part of his 9 catches for 131 yards in the game. This was the 2nd time in as many chances that Big Ben’s receiver ended up being much more valuable than the quarterback in the Super Bowl. You typically see limited quarterbacks focusing in on one receiver rather than reading the defense and finding the open man or juicy matchup.

With two weeks to prepare I expect Aaron Rodgers will do a much better job of using all of his weapons, much like he has for the last 3 seasons. Additionally, Rodgers has just as much ability to keep a play alive as Ben only the former is much more adept at gaining yards on the ground (averages 300 yards and 4TDs a season). I said before on this site that we may be witnessing the birth of an all-time great and I still firmly believe that. So he had a ‘down’ game last week in the bitter cold against a tough divisional rival in his 3rd consecutive road game – even Joe Montana had some post-season stumbles. One game doesn’t erase the prior 50 in which he’s been nothing short of spectacular. Yes, I have a mancrush. If ARodg doesn’t take a helmet-to-helmet from Harrison but still lays an egg, I’ll be absolutely shocked.

Anyway, I’m not passionate enough about either team to dive into the positional battles, but from a somewhat neutral point of view I’d say they’re largely even across the board with a few exceptions – most notably the running game in Green Bay. Starks is a nice rookie, but he doesn’t quite offer the ability to bust a back-breaking 60 yard scamper like Mendenhall. Speaking of the Steelers RB, I think he’s going to play like a man possessed after having to watch the last Super Bowl from the sidelines. He seems to be flying under the radar in all of the Super Bowl discussions.

It’s going to be a great game. These are two extremely talented teams with very few weaknesses – a rare treat in the Super Bowl. I agree with most that the Steelers have some edges at coaching, defense, and experience but I think this game is all about the birth of a legend. Can’t wait to see what happens on Sunday.”

JMB — Cricket, I think Rodgers is a top flight QB, and we just might be looking at a guy who could be in that “”top QB in the league”” conversation for years to come, even more so when Manning and then Brady falter and/or leave the game. Rodgers’ stats cumulatively have been great, but there’s a difference int he playoffs and the regular season as we all know. Re: Peyton Manning who is the kind of the regular season QB’s right now. My point simply is that before I anoint him a playoff legend I have to see it first, and this is chance. I think both the QBs in this game are great players, I just feel as if many underrate Ben and are now overrating Rodgers. AFTER this game if Rodgers has that amazing game many are predicting will I absolutely agree with the points made here – in fact if he has that kind of performance he might just rival the great Bart Starr for playoff statistical glory given the depth and talent pool in today’s game.

You make a great point too about the running game and Mendenhall going under the radar. I think its just so tempting to write off the running games due to the historical play of the Pittsburgh D, and how the Green Bay D has come on as of late to shut down opposing teams. However, both guys will get the chance to carry the rock. The Steelers are going to try and run to win time of position and help Ben, and the Starks threat has made Rodgers much more dangerous. Look at how the playaction REALLY helped Rodgers early in the game against Chicago. It’s not always how many yards you get in the running game, its the number of attempts to keep the defense honest and perhaps make them hesitate for that split second to get guys out of position, especially if you can force guys into the box, or get the linebackers to bite re: Urlacher vs. Rodgers from the championship game. As much as both teams may “”spread”” the other out, the running game won’t be abandoned by either side unless the score forces the issue. Actually I look for Pittsburgh to use a bunch formation, especially with Miller/Ward to combat the 4-2-5 and run out of that formation.

I really hope you are right about this being a great game. We’ve had some closer games as of late say Pitt/Az and NE/NYG, but I also grew up in the 1980s/1990s with so many blow outs courtesy of the Cowboys and Niners, it would be nice to be more entertained by the game than the halftime show.

Rob:  While it was interesting to sit back and listen to everyone give their perspective on experience-factor for quarterbacks or which team has better wide receivers, I may as well jump in and expound on my “offense and defense” comment before shutting things down before it gets way too lengthy.  Aaron Rodgers is an extremely confident guy who is more than capable of standing toe-to-toe with Roethlisberger.  The Steelers offensive line issues with Pouncey being injured (and wanting to play) is going to be a problem.  The Packers defensive backs are going to be a problem for the Steelers moreso than Pittsburgh’s DB’s will do for the Green Bay passing attack.  I don’t think coaching is going to be too big of a factor in this game, nor do I think the Steelers’ Super Bowl experience advantage is going to be enough to push the advantage too far in their favor.

Sometimes, like last year with the Saints, a team just seems destined to win the big game.  That’s just how I feel about the Packers.  That’s how I felt about the Patriots the first time Tom Brady won.

Finally, I’m going with the Packers because, even with valid arguments to be made for both teams in an extremely even match up, I want them to win.  I don’t need to see a Pittsburgh Dynasty.  I don’t need more fawning over Brett Favre, and that’s exactly what we’re going to get from the lazy talking heads who want to be fiery with their arguments if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t win this Super Bowl.  I don’t need Ben Roethlisberger to get gushed-over, either.  I’m not a hater, but there’s no need to talk about all the “adversity” he overcame this year, which is exactly what we’ll hear about if the Steelers win.  The “adversity” was self-inflicted, and I think he deserves an off-season of wallowing somewhere below “champion” status to determine whether or not he can really change himself, which needs to happen before he disgraces himself further.

and finally…