The point spread for Super Bowl XLV is 2.5, the slimmest margin in 27 years. The over-under is 44.5
. The Packers hold advantages in top-to-bottom talent and roster health. The Steelers counter with Super Bowl resumes and coach Mike Tomlin's 5-1 playoff record.
Let's take a look at each position on both sides.
My prediction is at the end of the column.Quarterback
Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers
The NFC's best quarterback with the top all-around skill set regardless of conference, Rodgers has compiled a 23:5 touchdown-to-turnover ratio in his last 11 games. His 13:3 career postseason ratio is similarly dominant. In this year's playoffs, Rodgers has engineered three straight road wins by a combined score of 90 to 51. If we're strictly talking quarterback play -- not Super Bowl wins and "intangibles" -- Rodgers gets the edge over Ben Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben enters his third Super Bowl with one loss since mid-November and a 10-2 lifetime playoff record. He has three INTs compared to 13 all-purpose TDs in the last ten weeks. What Roethlisberger lacks in flashy passing stats he makes up for in toughness, aggressiveness, and sheer wins. He has a difficult matchup, however, versus a Packers defense that ranked No. 5 against the pass during the regular season and has a league-high 30 interceptions through 19 games.Edge: PackersRunning Back
Green Bay: James Starks
A sixth-round rookie and regular season non-factor, Starks has emerged as the NFL's playoff rushing leader. A closer look at his per-play production reveals a middling talent. Starks lacks big-play ability (just one run of 20-plus yards on 70 attempts), and is averaging 3.76 yards per postseason carry. While Starks is capable of killing the clock and getting what's blocked, he isn't a difference maker. Starks is also pulled in favor of Brandon Jackson
on all passing downs.
Pittsburgh: Rashard Mendenhall
Head to head in terms of position, the running game is an area in which Pittsburgh has a clear advantage over Green Bay. An every-down back unlike Starks, Mendenhall exploded for 121 yards on 27 carries (4.48 average) against the Jets' third-ranked run defense in the divisional round. Whereas the Packers' ground game won't have room to run against Pittsburgh's impenetrable front seven, Mendenhall has the potential to be a deciding factor in Super Bowl XLV. Edge: SteelersWide Receiver/Tight End
No NFL team boasts a more formidable pass catching corps than the Pack, which has produced four wideouts with at least 565 yards. The group is headlined by deep threat Greg Jennings
, who ranked fourth in the league in regular season receiving yardage and averaged eight catches for 115.5 yards in playoff wins over Atlanta and Chicago. "Backups" James Jones
and Jordy Nelson
have traded off heroic performances. Trusty slot receiver Donald Driver
rounds out the unit.
Pittsburgh's wideout corps has received a major late-season boost from explosive rookies Antonio Brown
and Emmanuel Sanders
. Their emergence has been timely with 34-year-old Hines Ward
slowing down. Ward is still is a devastating downfield run blocker, but hasn't topped 45 receiving yards in seven weeks. Arguably the most dangerous receiver on either side in the Super Bowl, Mike Wallace
is the Steelers' deep ball specialist. Tight end Heath Miller
is a reliable third-down target. Edge: PackersOffensive Line
The Packers are potent in the front five, executing a zone-blocking running scheme and holding top pass rushers Julius Peppers
and Trent Cole
sack-less in the playoffs. John Abraham
did get to Aaron Rodgers
once, but that was Abraham's lone tackle of the divisional round. 34-year-old left tackle Chad Clifton
still gets it done in pass pro, and rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga
is capable of battling LaMarr Woodley
to a draw. Right guard Josh Sitton
is Green Bay's finest run blocker.
This is Pittsburgh's glaring weakness, particularly if rookie Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey
doesn't play. The center's status appears doubtful due to a high sprain and broken bone in his left ankle. If Pouncey is inactive, the Steelers will start four projected backups against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Clay Matthews
and company. It's a good thing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
is powerful enough to shake off hits, because he's going to take plenty of them.Edge: PackersDefensive Line
The Packers and Steelers run 3-4 defenses with three down linemen on first and second down, and four to five rushers in three-point stances in passing situations. The front three is a strength on both sides. Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji
is on an epic tear with 16 tackles, five sacks, five pass breakups, and an interception return for a touchdown in his last eight games. Left end Ryan Pickett
is a space eater, while right end Cullen Jenkins
is an underrated pass rusher.
The Steelers won't get back rehabbing Pro Bowler Aaron Smith
for Super Bowl XLV, but Ziggy Hood
has solidified the left end position. Pittsburgh has allowed a league-low 62.1 rushing yards per game since Hood took over, and the 2009 first-round pick has supplemented the pass rush with four sacks in his last six games. Still going strong at age 33, five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton
is a true clogger on run downs. Right end Brett Keisel
can collapse the pocket.Edge: Tie