Guest Post by Bryan Confer, Co-Written by Susan Shan
The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers have a combined 18 NFL championships between them (dating back to the pre-Super Bowl era); yet, they’ve somehow never met in a championship game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this will be the fourth instance in which both participants with histories dating back to the pre-expansion era (pre-1960) will be playing against each other in the Super Bowl for the first time.
The Packers and Steelers have a combined nine Super Bowl victories – the highest of any two teams entering a Super Bowl. The previous record was eight, set when the Dallas Cowboys and the Steelers met 15 years ago in Super Bowl XXX (each team had four).
The two teams have had very different recent histories, however. The Steelers are looking to win their third Super Bowl in six years while the Packers are the 10th different NFC team to play in the Super Bowl in the last 10 years. In addition, Green Bay is trying to become just the second sixth-seed to win the Super Bowl. The first to do it was, of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Two of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league – Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers – will go head-to-head in an NFL game for only the second time. In their first meeting on December 20, 2009, the duo set an NFL record by combining for 886 passing yards and zero interceptions.
In that game, there was 35 combined points and four lead changes…in the fourth quarter. The game ended in typical Roethlisberger fashion: he hit Mike Wallace for the game-winning touchdown pass as time expired. However, that game was played outdoors at Heinz Field.
Since starting his first NFL game in 2008, no one has been better indoors, statistically, than Rodgers. He has thrown for 26 touchdowns with just five interceptions in 12 career indoor games (including playoffs). His passer rating of 111.1 is also the league’s best indoor rating since 2008. But, Rodgers’s stats failed to translate to victories as he went 6-6 in those games.
According to SI.com, the “Packers have averaged 31.8 points per game in the 12 indoor contests. Take out this season’s 7-3 loss at Detroit – when Rodgers left the game with a concussion in the second quarter – and Green Bay averaged 33.7 points in the other 11 dome games.”
So who will take Super Bowl XLV for all the marbles? Find out below as we preview this historic matchup.
With a Super Bowl win, can Aaron Rodgers finally shake the “Brett Favre Shadow”?
Just like how we still compare Steve Young to Joe Montana, fans across the nation will always compare Rodgers to Favre. Much like how Kobe Bryant will always be measured by Michael Jordan’s talents and accomplishments, Rodgers must listen to people raving about Favre’s past heroics.
If Rodgers can win a Super Bowl, however, he can clear his own conscience. Screw what everyone else thinks.
Did the correct Super Bowl XLV participant win the Defensive Player of the Year award?
Yes, if only because Polamalu has better hair. In all seriousness though, Polamalu won in part because he was awarded for an entire career’s worth of work.
The situation is similar to Martin Scorsese winning the Academy Award for Best Director for The Departed. The movie wasn’t Scorsese’s best all-around make-up, but he earned the Oscar with his consistent body of work over the years.
Still, despite missing two games this season, Polamalu finished second in the NFL with seven interceptions. He also recorded five tackles for a loss, making him one of two players in the league this season to record five or more interceptions and five or more tackles for a loss; DeAngelo Hall is the other one.
In the past two years, the Steelers are 15-4 when Polamalu plays and 6-7 when he does not (playoffs included). In addition, Pittsburgh averages 2.3 takeaways per game and holds opponents to 14.5 points per game with Polamalu; without him, the defense only manages 1.0 takeaways per game and allows 21.5 points per game.
Polamalu’s importance cannot be understated; his on-field actions literally translate to victories. The Steelers are 9-0 over the past two seasons when he has had at least one interception in the game and 9-1 when he has recorded at least five tackles.
Does defense win championships?
Super Bowl XLV will feature the top-ranked (Pittsburgh Steelers) and No. 2-ranked (Green Bay Packers) defenses in the NFL in terms of points allowed. The last time this happened was in 1983 for Super Bowl XVII, played between the Washington Redskins (No. 1 defense) and the Miami Dolphins (No. 2 defense). The Redskins won that game 27-17.
So, does defense win championships? Not solely. Football is the ultimate team sport; you do have to outscore the other team to win. Sure, Super Bowls can be won with purely defensive teams (see: Buccaneers, Tampa Bay), but other factors like great coaching, a good quarterback, a power running game, and winning the turnover battle all contribute to a high winning percentage.
If Ben Roethlisberger wins his third Super Bowl, can we categorize him with the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning?
The NFL, more than any other league, values championships. Cris Carter – third all-time leader in receptions, eighth in yards, and fourth in career touchdowns – has consistently been left off the Hall of Fame ballot because he has zero rings. In what other league does an all-time top-10 leader in three major statistical categories get left out?
The NBA, in contrast, plays by different rules. John Stockton and Karl Malone both made the Hall of Fame despite never winning a title; their numbers (Stockton holds the records for most steals and assists, Malone is second in all-time scoring) speak for themselves.
Which brings us to Roethlisberger, who has a regular season record of 69-29 in games he has started since turning pro. More importantly, his postseason record is 10-2 and his Super Bowl record is 2-0.
If Roethlisberger wins his third Super Bowl, there will only be two quarterbacks in the history of the NFL to have won more: Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four each. The elite company itself answers the question.
Is either Green Bay or Pittsburgh America’s Team?
Although both Green Bay and Pittsburgh have more championships than Dallas (including the pre-Super Bowl era), neither organization is considered America’s Team.
People forget that Dallas was named America’s Team because of merchandise sales, not Super Bowls. When Bob Ryan coined the phrase in 1978, Dallas had just one Vince Lombardi Trophy. The nickname came with the overwhelming fame of the team, as well as its popularity; Cowboys games were almost always nationally televised, and Cowboys gear was sold everywhere.
Who wins the game?
When two teams are this evenly matched, we look for any advantage we can. The edge goes to the No. 1 defense, a clutch quarterback who has been there twice and won it both times, and a coach who isn’t afraid to go for the win. We’ll take Pittsburgh to win their seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy in Dallas.
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