Super Bowl 2011: A Commentary

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Packers Cowboys Football

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Another NFL season has passed, and another Super Bowl is in the books as the Green Bay Packers were crowned the leagues best by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers. Aaron Rodgers had another great game, and in doing so, cemented himself as perhaps the league’s premiere quarterback. However, we already knew he was a great quarterback, and there was one more important thing we learned from this game.

Respect

The Packer defense has been near the top of the league in many categories over the last few seasons, yet they have never been considered among the league’s elite. That moniker has been bestowed on teams like Baltimore, San Diego, and of course the Steelers. It happened throughout the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. We heard more than we ever wanted to about “Blitzburgh,” and Dick Lebeau, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, etc.

The only Packer on the defensive side of the ball you ever heard about was Clay Matthews. He may as well have been on the field alone, as you never heard a word about anyone else. It may have been Aaron Rodgers who climbed out from under Brett Favre’s ghost and led the Pack to a 31-25 victory at Cowboys Stadium, but the Packer defensive players were the ones who brought the Lombardi Trophy back to its birthplace.

In Titletown

You may be one of the handfuls of people who missed this classic and attempted to catch up by just reading the box score. You probably looked and saw that your defense allowed 25 points and 387 yards of offense. Well, that doesn’t seem all that impressive, right? The Steelers may feel differently. The Packers employed a strategy that all winning teams do, bend but don’t break. They made every big play that they had to, and turned three Steeler turnovers into 21 points.

You could make the argument that the Steelers mistakes were their own fault, and that Ben Roethlisberger’s first quarter interception returned for a touchdown by Nick Collins is completely on Ben’s shoulders. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This was just one of many great plays made by the Green Bay defense on this day. This particular play was made possible when Howard Green steamrolled Chris Kemoeatu to force Roethlisberger into an ill-advised throw.

Roethlisberger did his best to recover

Ben tossed another pick before halftime that would lead the Packers to an 11 point lead at the half. However, give the Steelers credit as they made a game of it. The Black and Gold had the momentum on their side after Rashard Mendenhall trampled the Packer defense during an 8 yard touchdown scamper to cut the deficit to 21-17. Roethlisberger led the Steelers onto the Packer side of the field looking to take the lead, but Clay Matthews forced a Mendenhall fumble with a big hit to negate that opportunity.

Rodgers would then lead the Packers down the field and toss a touchdown to Greg Jennings to extend the lead. Even so, Pittsburgh climbed back to within six at the two minute warning, and it was setting up as another memorable Roethlisberger comeback. The Packers wouldn’t allow it though, as Tramon Williams knocked down a 4th and 5 pass to ignite the celebration across Packer nation. The day was owned by the Packer defense, and this was a fitting ending.

 

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Roethlisberger hoping for a little more protection in 09.

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Big Ben Roethlisberger has gotten his bell rung a lot more often than he would like. He was sacked 139 times over the last 3 years and that has to stop. A lesser man like backup Charlie Batch who is coming back after a broken collarbone last year wouldn’t have lasted as long as Ben. The only obvious weakness in the Steelers this season looks to be the O line.

Roethlisberger has 2 Super Bowl rings but has yet to play well in the big game. He has been the beneficiary of the run first Pittsburgh offense. To get to the Super Bowl, he is going to have to play better this season. The Steelers have an easier schedule on paper but some of the key competitors are better. Every team will be pointing to knock off the Steel men.

The Steelers shuffled their O line a lot in 08. Four starters were new to their positions. The only sure thing on the O line is C Justin Hartwig. LT Matt Starks lost the RT position to Willie Colon but is expected to try to hold down the left side this year. The guards are nothing special.

The running game did not produce as well last year as in the past due mostly to RB Willie Parker being hit in the backfield. Getting hit as he gets the ball slows Fast Willie down. Reserve Rashard Mendenhall missed the last 12 games of the regular season and the playoffs due to injury. If the running game is going to get back to the top of the league, he has to contribute.

There is very little behind WR starters Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. 3rd WR Nate Washington left via free agency and will be missed. FA pickup and ex-Lion Shaun McDonald could be the slot receiver to replace him. At TE Heath Miller has to stay healthy because there is nothing behind him. Miller is Ben’s security blanket and is one of the best combo block/catch TEs in the league.

The D line is solid and deep. Ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel keep the linebackers clean and NT Casey Hampton is a load and three quarters. Chris Hoke and Travis Kirschke have experience and I like rookie DE Ziggy Hood.

As always in Steel town, the linebackers are the heart of the D. LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison are as good a unit as there is in the league. They are tough against the run and the pass. Add the Blitzburgh scheme and your QB will need Tylenol 34 because Tylenol 2 won’t be strong enough. There is no experienced depth and that could become a problem.

With the exception of SS Troy Polamalu, the D backfield is only slightly above average. They look a lot better with the great pass rush that the system and the front 7 generates. Quality depth is a problem as well. Bryant McFadden is gone and at 33 Deshea Townsend may not make the final roster. The Steelers added vets Roy Lewis and Keiwan Ratliff who should help.

The key to the Steelers 2009 season will be the O line. If they can protect Ben and get some push to help the running game, the team will be in the playoffs and will challenge for a title again.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: Steelers,NFL,NFL Draft,Roethlisberger,Parker,Ward,Holmes,Hartwig,Super Bowl,McDonald,Hampton,LaMarr Woodley,James Farrior,Lawrence Timmons. James Harrison,Polamalu
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