As the big game approaches, the question is, of course, who will hold the coveted title of Super Bowl champion for the coming year. In a match as history filled as they come in the NFL, each team has its proponents. However, if you think about a few questions, the winner is quite clear.
Simply put, the most decorated franchise in the NFL, the Steelers, is re-loaded and ready to win another title. And there isn’t anything the beloved green and gold from Green Bay can do about it. Not even the chutzpah needed to claim the title of “Titletown, USA” could put them over the top. Mine is a bold, perhaps even disrespectful, statement to make. But it’s true, nonetheless. If Green Bay is to prove me wrong, there are 3 questions they must answer positively.
Daunting ones at that.
First, “can you stop Pittsburgh’s running game?” And within this, we probably should include the various screen passes that function like runs for Mendenhall, anyway. They can gash you for a big play, or grind you down 3 yards at a time. A serious, if not fatal, challenge – and we are only on the first question. Packers fans, are you ready for two more?
Second, “can you score on the Steelers defense?” Pittsburgh has allowed only 5 rushing touchdowns all season. That is just a shade over 62 yards per game. They have allowed exactly 1 rushing play of greater than twenty yards. Just one. There are 7 players on the Steel City team’s defense with at least 2 interceptions. Their leader, Troy Polamalu, has 7 by himself. This is the league’s top scoring defense; that is, you lose the ball, and surrender points on the same play. Hey, Green Bay, are you shaking yet?
Finally, the pièce de résistance: “can you force Ben Roethlisberger into a game-changing mistake?” Uh, not likely. He passed for 3200 yards in only 12 games, while throwing only 7 interceptions. He is mobile, and used to pressure from the defense. And there always seems to be a crucial throw to win a game in him.
I promised my Cheesehead friends three questions, but let’s go for a bonus. Sorry, guys, Mike Tomlin has the coaching advantage as well. Two Super Bowl appearances and 1 win already before the age of 40. That should tell us something. Has Tomlin ever made a clock-management or coaching mistake that cost the Steelers a game that mattered? I can’t remember it. Green Bay may be the sentimental favorite, but sentiment usually gives way to brute reality in the NFL.
Unless something goes crucially wrong for the Steelers, the Packers simply won’t be able to answer those four questions in the affirmative. And that is why, when push come to shove, the Steelers will win the Super Bowl.
You heard it right here.
Jason Kettinger is a contributing editor to Open for Business.