Tag:Super Bowl XLV
Posted on: February 3, 2011 10:32 am

MAC players represented well this week

B. Roethlisberger played his college ball at Miami (Ohio). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

ARLINGTON, Texas – I was talking to Steelers backup QB Charlie Batch the other day at Media Day, and we were discussing the sheer number of Mid-American Conference alumni who were participating in the festivities this week and were preparing themselves to play in the Super Bowl.

“It’s pretty crazy,” I said to the man who played at Eastern Michigan more than a decade ago. “There are 13 of you guys playing.”

“Actually,” he said, “there are 15 if you count the practice squad guys.”

Really? Well, let’s count them.

From the Steelers: Batch, Central Michigan’s Antonio Brown, Kent State’s James Harrison, Miami (Ohio’s) Ben Roethlisberger, and Bowling Green’s Shaun Suisham. That’s five.

From the Packers: Bowling Green’s Diyral Briggs, Miami’s Tom Crabtree, Central Michigan’s Josh Gordy, Central Michigan’s Cullen Jenkins, Western Michigan’s Greg Jennings, Eastern Michigan’s T.J. Lang, Buffalo’s James Starks and Central Michigan’s Frank Zombo. That’s eight.

Well, I count 13. Batch thought there were 15. Either way, it’s an impressive total for a non-BCS conference that doesn’t get much in the way of respect from college football/pro football fans.

“Obviously, we can get our guys out there, and we take a lot of pride in it,” Zombo said. “We talk about it quite a bit in the locker room. Some of the key players from the game are from the MAC who are contributing huge for the team. It shows the caliber of player we have in the MAC conference.”

That’s one impressive aspect of this story. It’s not just the scrubs or the practice squad players. It’s guys like Roethlisberger and Jennings and Harrison and Jenkins – some of the biggest stars of the game.

“The only difference in the MAC schools and the (BCS) conferences is the budgets in the programs,” Gordy said, and he’s probably partially correct.

In fact, the MAC has more players that will compete this week than the Big 12 (eight players), Pac-10 (six) and the Big East (four). All of them are BCS conferences. All of them have less MAC players (for the record, the SEC has 18, the Big Ten has 15 and the ACC also has 13).

Still, it’s a nice boon for the MAC that it has so much representation this week.

“At that level, there’s talent everywhere,” Crabtree said. “Whether you’re in the MAC or the Big 10 or whatever, there’s talent across the board. The MAC might not have the depth other conferences have, but the talent is still there.”

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:17 pm

Matchup breakdown: Steelers O vs. Packers D

R. Mendenhall (US Presswire)

Posted by Andy Benoit

In the AFC Championship, the Steelers surprised everyone by coming out running against the Jets. On paper, Pittsburgh’s banged-up offensive line was overmatched against New York’s third-ranked run defense. But on the field, the opposite proved true.

With Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey possibly out this Sunday (ankle/foot), one might think Pittsburgh would be inclined to come out throwing. After all, backup Doug Legursky has a noticeable lack of power, while Green Bay’s nose tackle B.J. Raji has a noticeable abundance of it.
But despite the Legursky-Raji mismatch, don’t be surprised if the Steelers once again rely on Rashard Mendenhall early on. Running the ball shortens the game and keeps Aaron Rodgers off the field. More than that, it decreases the number of times lumbering right tackle Flozell Adams has to fend off lightning pass-rusher Clay Matthews (Adams vs. Matthews is a mismatch that makes every member of the Steeler organization shudder; it’s hard to imagine the Steelers won’t concoct some form of tight end help for Adams.)

Early in the season, the Steeler offensive line and third down back Mewelde Moore struggled mightily with blitz identification. They got the pass-blocking issues in order down the stretch, but with two weeks to prepare, you have to figure Dom Capers will design at least a few new complicated zone exchanges and delayed A-gap blitzes.

What’s more, whether he’s blitzing or feigning a blitz, slot cornerback/rover Charles Woodson is the key to Green Bay’s pressure schemes. If it’s Woodson vs. Ben Roethlisberger in a presnap chess match, Steelers lose.

Super Bowl experience will have a pretty huge impact on this game as well. Here's Hines Ward on that subject:

Running the ball would ameliorate those unfavorable passing game matchups for the Steelers. But more than that, the Steelers may very well feel that they have an advantage against the Packer run defense anyway. Yes, Doug Legursky, left tackle Jonathan Scott and right guard Ramon Foster all lack the power necessary to generate downhill movement as run-blockers. But left guard Chris Kemoeatu doesn’t.

Kemoeatu is one of the most mobile blockers in football. When he gets to the second level and faces linebackers, he’s frighteningly nasty .The Packer defense did an excellent job at keeping inside linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk clean from blockers this season. (Why do you think the inexperienced Bishop and resoundingly average Hawk were the only two Packers to record 100-plus tackles?)

But the Steelers, who run two-tight end base personnel, could give those inside linebackers problems by shifting to three-receiver personnel (which would involve replacing Matt Spaeth with wideout Emmanuel Sanders). The Packers almost always use a 2-4-5 alignment in nickel defense. With only two downlinemen, Kemoeatu would have a clear path to Bishop or Hawk (and remember, in nickel, one of those inside ‘backers will be off the field). In that case, Mendenhall could run inside, or, if he’s lucky, get isolated on the edges against outside linebacker Erik Walden (an impressive athlete but very callow run-stopper).

Roethlisberger is Pittsburgh’s best playmaker, but the run game could very well be Pittsburgh’s best chance at a seventh Lombardi trophy.

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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 11:30 am
Edited on: February 2, 2011 4:01 pm

Super Bowl Scene: Tuesday night media party

Posted by Andy Benoit
R. Staubach (US Presswire)
DALLAS – As I begin this entry it is 11:15 local Dallas time but it feels closer to 2:00 a.m. There are less than 10 people in the media center; six hours ago more than 2/3 of the 350 or so chairs in here were occupied. Everyone had a lot to transcribe and punch out after Media Day .

This isn’t to say all of the media has gone to bed, though. Currently, hundreds of press members (and hundreds more friends of press members) are over at Dallas’ House of Blues at the NFL media party. If you haven’t been to a House of Blues, just know, it’s gigantic (as party atmospheres go). Every room leads to a bigger room. And, thanks to shrewd lighting, they all have a subtle air of exclusivity. Lastly – and this is quite possibly from the “nobody cares but me” file – the food at the party was endless, evidenced by this photo of what is easily the coolest chips & dip setup I have ever seen.

Despite the raucous band, free food (i.e. free booze) and everyone’s pent up desire to have enough fun to make up for the retched ice storm, the patrons at House of Blues were well behaved. They didn’t have to be ... the NFL-issued Super Bowl schedule brochure listed the party time as 8-midnight, with a wink-wink note that shuttles from the media center to the House of Blues will be running until 2:30 a.m.

There wasn’t much NFL representation at the party, though Jerry Jones was in the house (in a roped off section). Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Roger Staubach was also there ... and not roped off.

Despite its reputation (and the first four paragraphs of this post), Super Bowl week has not been all about partying. Not even close. The buzz still predominantly pertains to the game, with plenty of side chatter about the CBA and Ben Roethlisberger (rehashed) drama.

Besides, it’d be foolish to party too hard. Buses for the Packers press conference left at 6:45 this morning.

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Posted on: January 28, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: January 28, 2011 2:38 pm

Hot Routes 1.28.11 Pro Bowl tidbits

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

Amazing stat: the Packers have a chance to become the first team in 48 years to go an entire season without trailing by more than seven at any point.

Reggie Wayne took his fellow Colts wideouts with him to Hawaii

The Raiders have hired their former offensive lineman Steve Wisniewski as an assistant offensive line coach. In a press release announcing the move, Wisniewski, who wore the silver and black from 1989-2001, was referred to as a “Raider legend”.

Ken Whisenhunt confirmed what many have long speculated: he wants to interview assistants on both Super Bowl teams (mainly Steelers, we’ll assume) before choosing a new defensive coordinator. 

Tampa has reason to believe that its upcoming October bid for the 2015 Super Bowl will be successful. 

Packers personnel legend Ron Wolf offers praise for Ted Thompson.

Noted Chiefs fan Tony DiPardo passed away this week at the age of 98.

Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com believes the Eagles want to appoint Packers secondary coach Darren Perry to their defensive coordinator position. (That could explain why the job has remained vacant for nearly two weeks.)

Donovan McNabb will serve as a guest analysts for ESPN during Super Bowl week.

A suite for Super Bowl XLV costs $163,000 – and it’s on the 30-yard-line, no less!

It’s very likely the Bucs will look to draft a defensive end.

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Posted on: January 28, 2011 10:24 am
Edited on: January 28, 2011 11:53 am

Package draws bomb squad to Cowboys Stadium

Posted by Andy Benoit

UPDATE 11:52 a.m. EST: False alarm. The suspicious package was just garabage (according to ESPN's Trey Wingo). Carry on!


This is the kind of Super Bowl story that we truly don’t want: a bomb squad has been deployed the Cowboys Stadium because of a suspicious package.

The Dallas/Fort Worth NBC affiliate writes:

The 900 block of Randol Mill Road in front of Cowboys Stadium has been closed because of a suspicious package.

Officials from the Arlington Bomb Squad and HAZMAT teams are on site investigating the device, which is believed to be in a manhole.

So far, the stadium and surrounding area has not been evacuated.

We’ll update when something (or, hopefully, nothing) happens.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: January 27, 2011 9:44 am

No Jets or Bears in Super Bowl is costly for NFL

Posted by Andy Benoit

Whenever the San Antonio Spurs make it to the NBA Finals (which, until recently, was every other year), we hear innumerable stories about how much it hurts the NBA to have a “small market” team on the grand stage. Same goes for Major League baseball whenever the New York or Chicago teams fail to make it to the World Series.

Comparatively, we don’t hear a lot of griping when a small market team (like, say, the Packers of Green Bay, WI) make it to the Super Bowl; reason being, the astronomical television ratings take virtually no hit. In fact, like the relatively small market Steelers of Pittsburgh, the Packers have one of the largest national followings in football.

But this doesn’t mean that the NFL is immune to all the financial repercussions of having no major market clubs in the Super Bowl. An NFL insider tells MSNBC’s Darren Rovell that not having the New York Jets or Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLV create a 30-50 percent drop in corporate spending. Big markets like Chicago and New York simply have more people willing to make the trip. And because those towns have more people, they have more corporate honchos.

Commonsense says fewer people and fewer corporate honchos means fewer dollars floating around Dallas/Fort Worth. But a 30-50 percent drop in corporate spending?

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Posted on: January 24, 2011 1:35 pm

NFL: Christina Aguilera to sing National Anthem

Posted by Andy Benoit

The NFL has announced that five-time Grammy award winner Christina Aguilera will sing the National Anthem for Super Bowl XLV. Aguilera performed as part of the halftime festivities in Atlanta in Super Bowl XXXIV.

As we wrote a few weeks ago when this piece of news was just a rumor, be prepared for an opening line that will go something like this: Oooohhhhhh saaaaaaaaayyyyyy can you seeeeeeeeee----eeeeeee----aaaaaa---
eeeeeee---aaa! By the dawn’s early…

And if somehow you don’t already know, performing at halftime will be the Black Eyed Peas.

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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