Super Bowl XLV pits the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. In the second part of our build-up to the big game, we analyse the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats facing the AFC Champion Steelers.
Balance, on both sides of the ball, is the Steelers’ greatest strength. While Troy Polamalu is the undisputed leader of the defence, Pittsburgh have proven adept in both pass and run-stopping this season. Their total defense of 207.5 yards given up per game is comfortably the best in the NFL and a massive 74.8 yards per game better than the Packers. Offensively the Steelers are much better on the ground than the team that won Super Bowl XLIII, thanks to upgrades to the offensive line and the addition of Rashard Mendenhall at running back. Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been at his best in the playoffs but his regular season showings and the multiple threats in the receiving corps means Pittsburgh’s passing game must be respected.
Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden are both established veterans on the Steelers’ roster but they will face their toughest challenges of the post-season on Sunday. The much bigger concern for Pittsburgh however comes at center. Maurkice Pouncey looks almost certain to miss the game or at the very best be severely weakened for the game. This places a huge onus on Doug Legursky, a bigger but less nimble back-up to build up a quick relationship with Ben Roethlisberger. The quarterback-center connection is crucial to the tempo of an offence, any interruption can have a massive impact.
Green Bay’s improved running game has earned the Packers’ plenty of plaudits in the post-season. The big difference has been the addition of James Starks who has 263 yards on 70 carries in the playoffs. This has been a massive boost to Green Bay’s 24th ranked performance in the regular season. Much like the challenge facing Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks, Starks and co. haven’t been up against a defence of this calibre in the post-season. Success in stuffing the run would give the Steelers’ a massive leg-up.
In simple terms, Aaron Rodgers and B.J. Raji. Rodgers is as unlikely to cause turnovers as Mark Sanchez but far more prolific and accurate with his throws. Polamalu strengthens the secondary but Rodgers will much prefer the Steelers’ cornerbacks to the prospect of dealing with Revis Island had the Jets made it out of the AFC. Raji meanwhile could destroy Pittsburgh’s inside running game if, as it looks likely, Doug Legursky starts at center in lieu of Maurkice Pouncey. Damage control on both these fronts will be a top priority for Pittsburgh.
Our preview of the Super Bowl is being conducted over four parts. Here’s the link to our previous piece and the schedule for the final two articles.
Tuesday 25 January: Hair, history, injuries, and quarterbacks.
Monday 31 January: SWOT analysis of Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wednesday 2 February: SWOT analysis of Green Bay Packers.
Friday 4 February: In-depth preview and prediction.