So if you have listened to our podcasts, (which you should) you know we have a Steelers friend – Dave from South Bend. Well, Dave is actually born and bred in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Why is he a Steelers fan we still don’t know, even after prodding him during our podcast. Anyways, Dave is also a pretty well-informed fan and quite frankly I didn’t want to talk to anymore black and gold dimwits explaining how they have the greatest franchise this week than I had to. Remember 12>6!
So Steelers Superfan #1, David McCoy is joined us this week for our weekly Q&A – Super Bowl edition. (Man, that does have a nice ring to it!)
1) Is the Pouncey injury the last straw for the Steelers’ offensive line? Do you believe they have enough to handle the front of Jenkins/Raji/Pickett, coupled with whatever exotic blitz schemes Capers draws up?
The Steelers’ offensive line has been making my stomach turn for years. Last season, remember, it gave up the second-most sacks in the league (50), only Green Bay had more (51). This year, only seven teams allowed more sacks, and only one of those seven made the playoffs (Chicago, with the most). Over the past few seasons, the O-line play has been one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) liabilities on the team. And the Pouncey injury definitely hurts, especially against a Green Bay front that will really bring the heat. I’ll be honest – it makes me really nervous. But I take comfort in a couple of things. One, despite the unit’s pass-protect struggles, they’ve been a very good in the running game – top 1/3 in the league. And if they can effectively run the ball (like they usually do), there aren’t as many pass blocking situations where things can go wrong. And Two, Ben Roethlisberger. If it were any other quarterback in that pocket, pass protection would be a much bigger issue. But he is a big, tough guy to bring down… and quite often, he’s at his BEST after the pocket breaks down. If Jay Cutler or Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers was this line’s QB, it would be a bigger problem. But Roethlisberger makes a huge difference. Doug Legursky has some big shoes to fill. But by all accounts, aside from the fumbled snap that allowed a safety, he played pretty well against the Jets. He’s no Pro Bowler Pouncey, but he’ll be alright.
2) Outside of Ben Roethlisberger, who is the most important offensive player for the Steelers on Sunday and why?
No question, it’s Rashard Mendenhall. I do not want to get into a game where it’s Roethlisberger v. GB’s secondary, up against Rodgers v. Pitt’s secondary. The Packers win that game. Green Bay’s secondary is deeper, and a little better. So Pittsburgh HAS to be able to run the ball. An effective running game will do two things – allow Green Bay’s front seven fewer opportunities to make a big play against suspect pass-blockers, and minimize the amount of times Roethlisberger has to throw into that secondary. All that aside… when Rashard is on, he can take over a game himself. So that would be big too.
3) Put yourself in Dick LeBeau’s shoes for a minute. What kind of game plan would you roll out against Aaron Rodgers?
I bring pressure. I make Bryan Bulaga earn his paycheck. I bring Polamalu up for a play… in coverage for two… up for one, back for two….. over and over. Woodley and Harrison are coming on nearly every play. I do not allow Rodgers time, and I put him on his back as many times as possible. That’s easier said than done… but One, I like my chances against Green Bay’s O-line, and Two, I don’t like my chances if Rodgers has time to make reads. And this is not a defense designed to drop into coverage, anyway. This is a defense designed to blitz, with players who can make big plays.
4) Some analysts say the Packers have more talent, but the Steelers have more experience. Some also say they would take talent over experience any day. When the ball is kicked off, how much do you think that experience will matter?
I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the whole experience thing. I think it absolutely helps to a certain degree, but not nearly enough to decide the game. Impact on the game, yes… Big impact, no. And I’m not so sure the Packers have more talent, either. I think, position by position, the talent is pretty equal, aside from an advantage at RB for Pitt, and a (slight) advantage for Green Bay at DB. All things being equal, I think you throw those kind of things out the window. These are two very evenly matched teams, and one or two plays are going to decide this one. It might be a fumble on special teams, an interception by a No. 5 cornerback in a nickel package, or a touchdown by a third-down running back. And in that case, experience and talent don’t apply.
5) Where do you see the biggest advantage and disadvantage between these two teams and who is more likely to exploit them?
Here’s what I think: (Just my opinion)
QB – Slight advantage Pit
RB – Advantage Pit
TE – Advantage Pit
O-line – Advantage GB
WR – Slight advantage GB
D-line – Push
LB – Push
DB – Slight Advantage GB
ST – Advantage GB
To answer your question, there’s no blaring mismatch that stands out. That’s one thing that makes this game so intriguing and so tough to call. But the biggest difference I see is that the Steelers run the ball better than Green Bay, and the Steelers stop the run better than Green Bay. Both of these teams can throw it, both of these teams can defend/attack the throw. But there’s not the disparity between the two that there is in the running game. As I think I said on the podcast, I see this game being won or lost on the matchup between the Steelers run game vs. the Green Bay D-line. The team that wins that matchup wins the game.
I think we’re in store for one hell of a game. One where you don’t want to turn away for a single play. It’s probably a good thing that the Black Eyed Peas are playing the halftime show, because that’s the only chance I’ll get to pee. And at least I won’t be missing anything.
Steelers 24, Packers 23
Thanks to David McCoy from South Bend joining us this week. I really don’t have anything nice to say to him, so as always feel free to rip his takes below.