Whew. It's Friday afternoon-journey-into-night as I'm typing this, and we are almost at kickoff. Or close enough, anyway. Maurkice Pouncey is out, Aaron Smith is out, Erik Walden is questionable and Frank Zombo is probable. I'm going nuts over here. (Before I forget, here's two good links for information.)
THREE THINGS THE PACKERS HAVE TO DO TO WIN THIS GAME
1. Protect Aaron Rodgers. Pick up the blitzes, account for Troy Polamalu, give him time to find the Packers' receivers downfield against the Steelers' average corners. The Packers will run just enough for the play-action fake to have some credibility, so use it when it's there. The Steelers have three men on defense that can make the game-changing play on any given snap: Polamalu, James Harrison and LaMar Woodley. Shutting down two of them is damn near impossible, but if the Packers can minimize their impact, they have a solid chance here. Rodgers will have to be as elusive as he was against Atlanta or New York, and more so.
2. Get Roethlisberger on the ground. We all know that Roethlisberger is one of the hardest quarterbacks in the league to sack; 6'5", 241 and incredibly strong, he can throw the ball with defenders draped all over him. Much has been made this week of the Packers sacking Big Ben five times in 2009, but missing five others. Cullen Jenkins, this year, has missed more sacks then anyone I've ever seen. The Packers will get pressure against the Steelers' offensive line; that's a given. But "pressures" won't win this game. Sacks will, and forcing Roethlisberger into terrible throws. A few turnovers would help the Packers immeasurably.
3. Be the toughest motherfuckers on the field.
The Steelers will hit you. They will go out and act like the toughest team on the field, and usually, they are. Everyone saw Hines Ward break Keith Rivers' jaw. Everyone saw the hits James Harrison leveled this season. That's part of the Steelers' personality. That's what they're known for. They're brutal and they're confident. The Packers aren't going to break the Steelers' resolve, particularly not with experience.
What they have to do is to be the ones left standing at the end of the play.
The Packers need James Starks to fall forward. They need John Kuhn to have that will and that resolve against his former team to get the tough yard and hang onto the ball. They need to make the Steelers pay for each and every time they want to carry the ball, pass the ball, catch the ball. Every time Rashard Mendenhall gets a carry, get a hit on him. Every time Desmond Bishop gets an opportunity for a big hit, let him make it. The team needs to intimidate the other side, to stand up to the Steeler mojo and throw it back in their faces, to play Packer football from the '60s. Yes, we need the big plays from Rodgers to Jennings and Jones and Nelson and yes, we need to force turnovers, but it all starts with being the most physical team on the field. If you can outfight the Pittsburgh Steelers, you can do damn near anything, including win this Super Bowl.
Clay Matthews will be extremely hard for the Steelers to contain. They have two backup tackles, a backup center and subpar guards. We just have to bring down Big Ben.
(Shameless self-promotion; that's my compilation).
I don't remember what I picked as the last score, but my pick hasn't changed. Packers over the Steelers, 27-20.