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Tag:Jordy Nelson
Posted on: February 7, 2011 12:41 am
Edited on: February 7, 2011 12:43 am
 

Packers WRs fight back after drops (VIDEO)

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – The drops were beginning to frustrate Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, and they were really beginning to annoy WR Greg Jennings.

Over and over again, Green Bay’s receivers dropped very makeable catches from Rodgers, stalling drives and killing momentum. Jordy Nelson (nine catches, 140 yards, one touchdown) had a fantastic night, but he dropped a few. James Jones (five catches, 50 yards) recovered pretty well, but he flubbed a potential touchdown catch. Brett Swain blew one as well that bounced off his hands and his legs before it hurt the turf.

Jennings wanted to say something, but he knew he couldn’t harp on the negative – on the, “What the hell are you guys doing out there” aspect. Still, receivers coach Jimmy Robinson urged his No. 1 guy to say something, especially with team leader Donald Driver out for the game.

“As one of the head guys, you understand that guys sometimes have to pull themselves out of the hole,” Jennings said. “When you have a drop, you have to be able to bounce back. All I said was, ‘We have to be great. Period. We have to be great. We can’t afford to have that in a game of this magnitude.’ The guys responded and we made the plays down the stretch. Ultimately, we got the job done.”

For much of the second half, though, the receivers were shaky. And on the Packers first drive of the fourth quarter, the carelessness struck again. With the Packers leading by four, Rodgers faced a third-and-seven after Nelson dropped another pass. But with the Packers desperately needing to continue the drive and put points on the board, Rodgers zipped a throw to Nelson.

Nelson easily made the catch, gaining 38 yards, and the Packers eventually scored a touchdown to take an 11-point lead.

“I can say for Jordy on that drive, for him to make a play on the very next play after he dropped one, it erases that drop out of your mind,” Jennings said. “When you can do things like that, it makes the game a lot easier even though you just made the ultimate boo-boo in our profession.”

The Packers prevailed without their emotional leader, as Driver – who injured his ankle in the first half and never returned – watched the second half from the sidelines. Without Driver, the Packers needed some kind of spark to kick-start an offense that failed to gain a first down in the third quarter.

Jennings helped provide it by fooling Steelers S Troy Polamalu.

After the Steelers cut the lead to four points in the third quarter, Green Bay’s defense forced a fumble from Pittsburgh RB Rashard Mendenhall, and after driving deep into Steelers territory, Jennings found himself running toward Polamalu, who was playing in a Cover-2.

Two weeks ago, while playing the Bears in the NFC championship game, Jennings cut inside against that defensive scheme and continued on his post route. That played worked a few times against Chicago, but against Pittsburgh, Jennings tried something different, cutting outside on a corner route and catching a wide-open touchdown pass.

“They were definitely playing for the post,” Jenning said. “We had gashed Chicago a couple times, and I’m sure they saw that in their film preparation where if they show a Cover-2 look, I’m going to be bend it into the post. But we kept the corner route on, and I was able to get behind him. (Polamalu) just dropped me. He completely dropped me.”

As a result, the Packers dropped the Steelers. And, at the same time, alleviated some of the annoyances created by a couple wide receiver drops.

“I,” said Rodgers with a laugh, “am not frustrated any more.”

Below is video of Jennings discussing his 31-yard catch on third-and-10 on the Packers final fourth-quarter drive.




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Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Five keys from Super Bowl XLV

Posted by Andy Benoit

1. Rodgers making the most of his time

We speculated before the game that Dick LeBeau would elect to drop back and play coverage against Aaron Rodgers. After all, when the Steelers blitzed Rodgers in the 2009 regular season matchup, they got tA. Rodgers (US Presswire)orched for 36 points.

Well, that speculation was prescient. Just as he did in the Super Bowl two years ago, LeBeau often kept safety Troy Polamalu in deep coverage. LeBeau’s bet was that outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley could abuse Green Bay’s edge pass-blockers. But with the exception of one James Harrison sack, that was not the case. Give a world of credit to Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga.

Polamalu played closer to the line of scrimmage in the second (including as a slot corner), but that did not disrupt Rodgers’ rhythm. As has been the case all postseason, Rodgers was terrific in his presnap diagnostics. And with solid protection, he was able to buy time in the pocket and work through his progressions. His poise allowed him to finish 24 of 39 (with six drops, no less) for 304 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Effective running

The Packers did not make the run a staple of their offensive gameplan (again, no surprise – they were facing the third best run defense in NFL history), but they made the absolute most of the rushing attempts they did have. James Starks finished with 52 yards, 37 of them coming in the first half. He had crucial gains of 8 yards, 7 yards, 12 yards and, most notably, in the fourth quarter, 14 yards.
 
The common thread on all these plays was that Green Bay attacked running. The Packers knew they didn’t have the oxen to move nose tackle Casey Hampton, so they attacked the edges. Brilliantly, they used slow developing runs to do this. This caused the aggressiveness of the outside linebackers to work against the Steelers. It probably wouldn’t have worked if Polamalu had lined up in the box.

3. The mismatch

For the past two years, the weak link of the Steelers’ secondary has been cornerback William Gay. The Packers sought out Gay early and often Sunday. Jordy Nelson beat him on a fade route on the opening touchdown (this would be a harbinger for the rest of the game, as Nelson finished with nine catches for 140 yards and was targeted 15 times). When Gay lined up inside, the Packers were able to exploit him with crossing patterns.

To be fair, Gay was not the only Steelers defensive back who struggled. Troy Polamalu took a few bad angles in coverage (including in the red zone) and Ike Taylor gave up a crucial 31-yard completion on third-and-10 to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter.

4. Packers front seven (or eight) stepped up

The Packers were without athletic outside linebacker Erik Walden (high ankle sprain) this game. But replacement Frank Zombo stepped up big. He took on blocks extremely well and – for the most part – held the edge against the run. He also sacked Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter.

A bigger injury was the loss of roving defensive back Charles Woodson. His absence was felt when Pittsburgh came out and completed crossing patterns passes and moved the chains on off-tackle runs early in the third quarter. Dom Capers was tempted to get conservative and utilize more traditional 3-4 fronts, but ultimately he tapped Jarrett Bush to play the joker role and stuck with the 2-4-5 that, all season long, has brought Green Bay magnificent success. Bush responded well (the design of the scheme gave him a clear pass-rushing lane or two) and the Packers defense avoided sliding down the sliJ. Bush (US Presswire)ppery slope they had found themselves on.

5. Pass-rush forced turnovers

Roethlisberger’s two first half interceptions that led to 14 Packers points were the product of bad decisions by the quarterback. But those bad decisions were the product of pass-rush pressure. Massive defensive lineman Howard Green ran into Roethlisberger on the first interception (the Nick Collins pick six). On the second pick, Roethlisberger felt his pocket collapsing and, uncharacteristically, floated the ball around A.J. Hawk and into double coverage.

Clay Matthews did not have a dominant game, but he got inside the Steelers’ heads somewhat by delaying his blitzes. Capers had Matthews line up as a quasi-inside linebacker early on. It looked like Matthews was spying Roethlisberger, but you don’t spy a non-Michael Vick quarterback with your superstar pass-rusher. Really what Matthews was doing was waiting for the Steelers offensive line to commit itself to a pass protection maneuver, then attacking. It was a shrewd concept given that the Steelers have struggled with pass protection communication at times this season, and given that they were without center Maurkice Pouncey.

Pass-rush pressure is about more than sacks. Green Bay’s front seven attacks disrupted the Steelers in subtle but costly ways.

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:12 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2011 2:22 am
 

Rodgers leads Packers to Super Bowl win

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – The Super Bowl experience of the Steelers didn’t matter a bit to the Packers. Neither did Ben Roethlisberger’s toughness, the Pittsburgh defense’s resolve or Brett Keisel’s beard.

Green Bay wasn’t fazed by its youth, its receivers’ inability to make relatively easy catches, or the fact EVERYBODY seemed to pick the Packers to win this game (usually meaning the Steelers would run right over Green Bay). Hell, Green Bay wasn’t even fazed by the furious comeback(s) by Pittsburgh after the Packers took an 18-point lead in the second quarter.

None of it mattered.

Not when Aaron Rodgers, playing in the biggest game of his life, refused to be intimidated by a Steelers offense that never stopped scoring points and narrowing the lead he had built in the first half. Not when he led Green Bay to a 31-25 win.



The biggest drive in the biggest game of his life came after the Steelers cut the lead to 28-25 with 7:34 to play. He was sacked on first down, and on third down, LG Daryn Colledge was called for a false start penalty to make it third and 10. Rodgers’ response: a 31-yard laser to Greg Jennings for the first down to keep the clock running.

Later in the drive, he hit James Jones for a 21-yard pass, and the Packers eventually kicked the field goal. It wasn’t exactly what Rodgers (who finished 24 of 39 for 304 yards and three touchdowns) wanted, but it gave Green Bay some breathing room. Which, it turned out, was all they needed.

Despite an iffy second half on offense and despite the fact the Packers defense clearly was impacted by the loss of CB Charles Woodson, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, Green Bay managed to win its first Super Bowl since the 1996 season, returning the Lombardi Trophy to the town that Lombardi put on the map.

After grabbing a 21-3 lead in the second quarter following a Jordy Nelson touchdown catch, a Nick Collins 37-yard interception return and a Jennings touchdown pass, the Packers seemed in control of the game. No, it didn’t just seem like it. The Packers WERE in control of the game.

But the Steelers made an important score late in the second quarter when WR Hines Ward caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to cut the lead to 11 before halftime.

Despite an extra-long halftime – an intermission show, mind you, that not even Slash could save – Green Bay couldn’t retake the game’s momentum.

The Steelers forced Green Bay to punt on the first drive of the second half, and five plays later, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall completed the five-play, 50-yard drive with an eight-yard scoring run. The fact Green Bay didn’t gain a first down in the third quarter and the fact the Packers receivers couldn’t handle Rodgers’ passes didn’t bode well going into the last 15 minutes.

Until the beginning of the fourth quarter, that is, when Clay Matthews and Ryan Pickett forced a fumble from Mendenhall to take possession at the Packers 45-yard line. And despite another terrible drop from Nelson, he redeemed himself with a 38-yard catch on a third down to keep the drive going.

After a Rodgers sack, he found Jennings, who had dominated Troy Polamalu on the route, in the corner of the end zone for the eight-yard score and the 11-point lead.

Rodgers, entering the postseason, had never won a playoff game. Now he’s won a Super Bowl. He might not be the best quarterback in the league. But he’s pretty damn close. And now he’s an NFL champion.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 7:18 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 7:23 pm
 

Flozell Adams injured; questionable to return

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

UPDATE (7:21 p.m.):
Early in the second quarter, Adams returned to the game.

----------

DALLAS – Late in the first quarter, the Steelers got a double dose of bad news.

One play after Packers WR Jordy Nelson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was pick-sixed by Nick Collins to give Green Bay a 14-0 lead.

But perhaps even worse, Steelers RT Flozell Adams was injured near the goal line on the interception return, and he’s out of the game for now. He’s questionable to return with a left shoulder injury.

He’s been replaced by backup Trai Essex.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 3:50 am
Edited on: February 6, 2011 4:13 pm
 

Steelers vs. Packers: 7-Point Super Bowl Preview

Posted by Will Brinson



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:



1. Green Bay Packers (No. 6, NFC, 13-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2, AFC, 14-4)

At various points in the season, this Super Bowl matchup looked utterly silly. Like when the Packers lost to the Lions in Week 14. Or when the Steelers were facing four games to open the season without Ben Roethlisberger. Or when Matt Flynn looked utterly confused at the end of the Week 15 loss to the Patriots. Or when the Saints spooked the Steelers on Halloween. 

Or, well, you get the point -- in the Packers and the Steelers both overcame a ton of adversity to get to Dallas. But maybe that speaks to exactly why Super Bowl XLV gets a pair of teams with immense talent, tremendous coaching and a knack for getting hot at the right time and winning games when they need to.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



It's the Super Bowl. And it's in Dallas. And it features two of the most historic franchises in NFL history, who just so happen to be the two best teams in the NFL. In short, it's a pretty perfect matchup and it's for the whole lobster enchilada. (They make those here. And they're delicious.)

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Steelers offensive line vs. Packers front seven

The Steelers defense isn't the only unit charged with keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field, because Pittsburgh's offensive line is going to need to help that cause as well if Mike Tomlin wants his second Super Bowl ring in four years. 

See, the Steelers are perceived as a running and defense team by stereotype only. The truth is that Rashard Medenhall only crossed the 100-yard mark three times this season, and twice were while Roethlisberger was suspended. That's not even taking into account his 3.9 yards per carry. So, even if they did have the offensive line to grind it out against Green Bay's defense in the running game, it might be tough sledding.

Problem is, with Doug Legursky replacing the injured Maurkice Pouncey, they definitely don't have the front five to handle that task.

Which means that if the Steelers want to keep A-Rod(ge) from hopping on the field and slotting his way to scores, they're going to need a Herculian effort from a makeshift group of guys up front in terms of pass protection. That's easier said than done against a Dom Capers defense, of course, because when he starts dialing up blitzes, things might get a little tricky, even though Pittsburgh's got a slew of talented wideouts in Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown

But the collective skill with that group's worth nothing if the Pittsburgh offensive line can't keep B.J. Raji and the rest of the wrecking crew on the Packers front seven at bay in a straight-up matchup to start.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

For various sad reasons, The Band stopped playing back in the 1970's. They did so at their peak, and with one of the greatest live performances in musical history (the final scene and song from Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" is below). This year's Super Bowl is going to be equally as awesome. It just is. But if it's the last performance well, I'm begging you NFL people. Please, don't do it. Don't you break our hearts.



5. The Packers will win if ...

They can put Roethlisberger on the ground. It's not exactly easy to do despite Ben's insanely high sack per game total of 2.67 (second in the NFL to only Jay Cutler). But the offense can score, and if the defense can keep the Steelers QB from extending plays and allowing his wide receivers to get open, they'll stand a substantially better chance of bring the Lombardi Trophy home.

6. The Steelers will win if ...

Their linebackers can manage to handle the spread formations that Mike McCarthy will dial up. No one's questioning Pittsburgh's ability to keep James Starks from running the ball. Stopping Aaron Rodgers and the four-wide sets that Green Bay's sure to employ is a different matter altogether. James Jones and Jordy Nelson might not be the two biggest names in terms of NFL wide receivers, but if they can get open before LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison take advantage of their favorable mismatches against Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga, the Packers will be in business.

7. Prediction
 
Packers 24, Steelers 21

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Matchup breakdown: Packers O vs. Steelers D

Posted by Andy Benoit

The Packers’ ground game doesn’t have a prayer against a Steeler run defense that ranks third all-time in the modern era. Center Scott Wells is a cagey veteran, but he struggled all season to hold ground against vociferous nose tackles. There may not be a more punishing run-stopping nose in the game than Casey Hampton. Even if the Packers can somehow neutralize that interior mismatch (and it’s doubtful they can), James StarkD. Driver (US Presswire)s, decent as he’s been this postseason, lacks the speed and agility to elude Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Pittsburgh’s superb linebacking corps.

Green Bay’s best chance on Sunday will be to isolate their wideouts against the Steelers defensive backs. Don’t be surprised if the Packers spend most of the game in four wide receiver sets. That would force Dick LeBeau to play nickel or dime and keep either his leader (James Farrior) or most athletic player (Lawrence Timmons) off the field. It would also isolate at least one of Green Bay’s wideouts on one of Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks.

For Green Bay, the most attractive mismatch in the passing game will be inside. Steelers nickelback William Gay, who occasionally struggles in man coverage, will have his hands full against either James Jones or Jordy Nelson.

Also, expect the Packers to keep Greg Jennings on the right side of the formation, where he’s more likely to face Bryant McFadden. McFadden, like his counterpart Ike Taylor, is stout enough as a tackler to keep the catch-and-run happy Packer receivers from breaking a big one. But unlike Taylor, McFadden does not have great length or catch-up speed over the top. Jennings, one the crispest and most befuddling downfield route runners in the game, can exploit this.

Most importantly, spreading the field will create natural throwing alleys for Rodgers. This is critical because, with Chad Clifton going against James Harrison and Bryan Bulaga going against LaMarr Woodley, shaky pass protection will limit Rodgers to mostly three-step drops.

It will be fascinating to see whether LeBeau allows Rodgers to complete passes off three-step drops or whether he tries to counter the quick pass. Countering it likely means taking a reactionary defensive approach – something that is generally unfamiliar for LeBeau’s unit. Normally the Steelers love to blitz their inside linebackers (often this is what creates one-on-one scenarios for their potent outside linebackers). But to counter Rodgers’ quick strikes, the Steelers may drop eight into coverage and rush only three. Harrison and Woodley are both adept in space. If the linebackers are dropping back, Pittsburgh’s corners get to play zone instead of man. That helps appease the mismatch against Green Bay’s wideouts.

The X-factor, as usual, is Troy Polamalu. How LeBeau decides to utilize his most dynamic playmaker will determine whether the Steelers blitz or drop back. If Polamalu roves around the box, expect blitz. If he roves around centerfield, expect drop back.

Speaking of Polamalu, here's what LeBeau had to say about the legendary safety.



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Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:59 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:45 am
 

Green Bay Packers offensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Drafted 24th overall, 1st Round 2005
He lacks is a weakness. One of the smartest, savviest and most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL. A Super Bowl ring might even legitimize the inevitable Is he better than Favre? discussion.
James Starks
RB
Drafted 193rd overall, 6th Round 2010
ixth-round rookie arrived on the scene just in time for Green Bay’s playoff push. Not a star, but the upright runner gives the backfield some of the burst it’s been missing.
Brandon Jackson
RB2
Drafted 63r overall, 2nd Round 2007
Doesn’t have the initial quickness or agility to be a quality NFL runner, though has at least found a niche as a pass-blocker and screen pass receiver on third downs.
John Kuhn
FB
UDFA 2005, PIT; FA 2007
Now synonymous with the term “folk hero” around Wisconsin. Has a knack for moving the chains.
Chad Clifton
LT
Drafted 44th overall, 2nd Round 2000
Superb technique and consistent pass protection earned him Pro Bowl honors for the second time in his 11-year career.
Daryn Colledge
LG
Drafted 47th overall, 2nd Round
Was finally kept at one position for 16 games, and responded with a career year. Not the strongest ox in the field, but dexterous at the second level. Packers would be wise to give him the long-term contract he wants.
Scott Wells
C
Drafted 251st overall, 7th Round
Reliable as they come. Will get jolted by bull-rushing nose tackles, but very rarely let’s that disrupt the entire play. Good mobility out in front.
Josh Sitton
RG
Drafted 135th overall, 4th Round
Arguably the best right guard in football this season. Outstanding brute force on contact, has little to no trouble reaching linebackers in the run game. What’s more, he’s at his best in pass protection.
Bryan Bulaga
RT
Drafted 23rd overall, 1st Round 2010
First-round rookie was drafted to eventually become the left tackle, but he might not have the quickness for that. Sound mechanics have made for a fairly smooth debut season.
T.J. Lang
OL
Drafted 109th overall, 4th Round 2009
Versatile player but limited athlete.
Greg Jennings
WR
Drafted 52rd overall, 2nd Round 2006
Known for his catch-and-run prowess, though his best asset is his innate feel for working back to the ball late in a play.
Donald Driver
WR
Drafted 213th overall, 7th Round 1999
The elder statesman saw his production dip in 2010 (thanks in part to a quad injury). But there’s still plenty of speed and quickness left in him.
James Jones
WR
Drafted 78th overall, 3rd Round 2007
When he’s not dropping balls he’s burning teams for long plays. Was actually Green Bay’s second most productive receiver this season.
Jordy Nelson
WR
Drafted 36th overall, 2nd Round 2007
The fact that he’s white and not constantly compared to Wes Welker or Brandon Stokley tells you what a viable field-stretching target he can be.
Andrew Quarless
TE
Drafted 154th overall, 5th Round 2010
Not Jermichael Finley, but then again, Antonio Gates isn’t even Jermichael Finley. The fifth-round rookie improved as the season wore on. Can catch what you throw him within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Donald Lee
TE
Drafted 156th overall, 5th Round 2003
Scaled-back role because he’s not the blocker that Tom Crabtree is. Still athletic, though. Packers try to get him one or two touches a game, usually on a screen.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: January 24, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 6:08 pm
 

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

Posted by Charley Casserly

It’d be hard to ask for a better matchup in Super Bowl XLV than the Green Bay Packers vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. These are the hottest teams in their respective conferences. Both have big-name quarterbacks, playmakers on offense and a host of Pro Bowl caliber contributors in their well-coached 3-4 defenses. It’s no wonder the oddsmakers and pundits are forecasting a close game. Here is an early overview of the matchup.

Three "X" FactorsB. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)

1. Super Bowl experience

The Steelers, only two years removed from winning Super Bowl XLIII, have an edge in experience that will come in to play both on and off the field. Having been in four Super Bowls myself, here is how I see the edge manifesting itself:

There are a lot of off the field distractions the players and staff have to deal with. These include ticket requests, media requests, family and friends travel, etc. The coaches have to manage these distractions while determining how much of the game plan to install at home and how much to install after arriving in Dallas. Some teams like to put in the game plan before they get to the Super Bowl site in order to have it done before the majority of distractions set in. Others want to wait so as not to have the players get bored or stale the week of the game.

The Steelers and their staff have dealt with this conundrum before. The Packers, for the most part, have not.


2. The two weeks to prepare and rest

I think this could favor or hurt Green Bay – we won't know until the game. On the one hand Green Bay is on a roll. They have faced elimination in their last five outings. They survived and, thus, have momentum. The two-week break could disrupt that momentum.
 
On the other hand, the break may be just the thing they need to get recharged. If they had to play next week, they maybe would run out of gas.

 
3. Green Bay’s familiarity with defensive scheme

The Packers may have an edge over many, if not all, of the opponents that the Steelers have played this year. That edge? They play the same 3-4 defense as Pittsburgh. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau worked together in Pittsburgh when LeBeau was the defensive backs coach when Capers was the defensive coordinator (1992-94). This will help Green Bay more than other teams that have had to prepare for Pittsburgh this season, as Green Bay will have had a better look in practice from their scout team in imitating Pittsburgh's defense.

 
Two key statistical categories that could come into play

 
1. Sacks per pass play

In terms of sacks per pass play, the Steelers offense ranks 30th in preventing sacks, while the Packers defense ranks third. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay's offense is 20th in sacks per pass play while Pittsburgh’s defense is sixth. Just watching film, it would seem Green Bay has the edge here. The statistics agree.
 
Both teams will have the opportunity to sack the opposing QB. I believe it comes down to which QB can avoid the pressure and still make a play. Conversely, which team when they get that free defender can bring the opposing QB down? Ben Roethlisberger is not only mobile, he is big and strong. He can throw with defenders draping off of him. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, is quicker a foot than Roethlisberger and can avoid defenders. 

 
2. Rushing

The Steelers run defense is ranked number one in the NFL. The Packers rushing offense is ranked 24th. This is a clear advantage for the Steelers. How will the Packers be able to run the ball? I believe their best chance will be to spread the Steelers out to make them defend the pass first, then come back with the run second. In other words, set up the run with the pass.

 
Three matchups of note (Green Bay offense vs. Pittsburgh defense)

 
1. Green Bay Wide Receivers vs. Pittsburgh CB's

The Packers have a decided edge here. The two things the Steelers must do to negate this edge is a.) jam the receivers off the line to disrupt their timing on their routes in their rhythm passing game and b.) do a good job tackling when Green Bay’s wideouts catch the ball. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson are all fantastic at running after the catch.

 
2. Green Bay's OT’s vs. Pittsburgh’s OLB’s

This is an edge for Pittsburgh. Most defenses only have one good pass-rusher. Pittsburgh has two in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Green Bay has to either make sure they help their OT's in some way (likely with a RB chipping or a TE staying in to block). The Packers cannot let the Steeler OLB's go one on one against Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, backup T.J. Lang or one of their backs.

 
3. Green Bay’s center Scott Wells vs. Pittsburgh’s NT Casey Hampton

This is an advantage for Pittsburgh in terms of size and strength. If the Packers can't find a way to control Hampton by helping Wells or devise a running scheme to take advantage of Hampton's tendency to over-pursue (such as having the RB cut back against the grain in the opposite direction of Hampton's initial movement), they will struggle to run the ball.

 
Three matchups of note (Green Bay defense vs. Pittsburgh offense)


1. Green Bay’s NT B.J. Raji vs. Pittsburgh’s C (Maurkice Pouncey or Doug Legursky)

Raji will have a decided edge over whoever Pittsburgh plays at OC (Pro Bowl rookie Maurkice Pouncey hopes to play on his bad ankle; third-year pro Doug Legursky is the backup). It is the same principle that Green Bay faces in running the ball against Casey Hampton: you need a plan to negate the edge that the opposing NT has over your C. B. Raji (US Presswire)

2. Green Bay’s nickel defense vs. Pittsburgh’s run offense

Green Bay will line up in their nickel defense on running downs and dare teams to run the ball. (Often times, they have just two defensive linemen in these packages.) If the Packers do this, the Steelers have to take advantage and run the ball effectively.

3. Green Bay’s OLB Clay Mathews vs. Pittsburgh OT's (LT Jonathan Scott, RT Flozell Adams)

Both OT's for Pittsburgh, Scott and Adams, are backup players. Mathews, like James Harrison, is one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. Mathews has to win his matchups against the Steelers tackles. The Packers do a good job moving him around to get him into favorable matchups. Can the Steelers figure this out and find a way to block him? 
 

Beyond the statistics and matchups: two more things to watch  

1. Will Green Bay employ a strategy similar to New England's plan against the Steeler defense? The Patriots spread the Steeler defense out and had a lot of success passing the ball. I think that is the best plan to beat the Steeler defense – and I think the Packers have the ideal personnel to execute that plan.

 
2. Will the Steelers try to run the ball to the outside early in the game to make those big Packer defensive linemen run to the ball? The hope here is that doing so will make those D-linemen tire and wear down as the game goes along. Fatigued defensive linemen, of course, are less effective against both the run and pass later in the game.

 
Prediction
 
This is a very even game, but I give the edge to the Steelers because of the slight edge at QB and their greater big game experience. I think the difference in the game will be Roethlisberger making more plays against the pass-rush than Rodgers. 




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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com