It seems like everyone is breaking down X’s and O’s (or the weather forecast for an INDOOR game) this week. And rightfully so since this is the biggest sporting event of the year. Who will block Raji? Can Clifton and Bulaga slow down Harrison? Who will win in the battle of the defensive minds?
All fair and important questions, but as it should Sunday’s game will come down to two players: Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers.
Both players are similar, but also have their differences. Roethlisberger has more size, but Rodgers has more speed. Roethlisberger is tougher to bring down, but Rodgers throws a prettier pass. Roethlisberger has excelled in key moments and Rodgers, well we just don’t know yet.
That is the biggest difference when looking at these two quarterbacks. I can already hear the jackyls coming out to roast me right now for calling out Rodgers during Super Bowl week. Just put away your pitchforks and tridents right now because I am not calling out Rodgers. We just don’t know yet, as this is the last part of his game he needs to show.
There is no debate that Roethlisberger has had more opportunities to prove himself in clutch situations than Rodgers. The key thing is that while he has had more opportunities, he hasn’t squandered many them. Everyone knows all the times it took Peyton Manning to finally break through and win in the clutch.
Besides his two Super Bowls, Roethlisberger is a pretty remarkable 10-2 in the playoffs. How he has won some of those games tell the story though. In his first career playoff game in 2004, he led Pittsburgh to a late comeback win in OT over the Jets, throwing a key 4th quarter touchdown. In 2007, he brought back the Steelers from an 18-point deficit in the 4th quarter against the Jaguars by throwing two touchdowns passes, only to lose by a late FG. And we all know his heroics at the end of Super Bowl XLIII against Arizona.
Looking at this year, Roethlisberger went back to his bag of tricks against the Ravens. Trailing 21-7 at halftime, he countered with two third-quarter touchdowns and a couple key throws late in the fourth quarter on the game-winning drive. Then against the Jets, he made his best throw of the game to Antonio Brown to give Pittsburgh the go-ahead first down to clinch the game while holding a New York comeback.
Now the knock against Roethlisberger against the Jets, as well as other games I’m sure, is that he let the opposition back in the game after building an early lead. Some has to do with the defense, but it is also up to the offense to put a team away.
The same criticism can also be directed towards Rodgers. Last year he led Green Bay back after being down early and went shot for shot with Warner. This time around he has had the luxury of playing with a lead for almost the entire playoffs. However, both the Eagles and the Bears found ways to get back into the game after the offense went stagnant late.
Defense played a part in those games and some of it had to do with playcalling. But this is Rodgers’ team and even with a lead he still needs to make clutch throws to ice the game. This is not saying he hasn’t been clutch or questioning the team’s ability to win close games because they have proven more than enough in the past six weeks. However, while not on the level as likes of Starr, Montana or Brady, the man standing on the opposite sideline Sunday has proven he can make those throws in the most important of games.
Sunday will be the ultimate proving ground, the best opportunity Rodgers will ever have. He is so close to greatness, he just may have steal a little ice from Roethlisberger to cement it.