Home > NFL > Super Bowl 45: The Two Most Similar Teams Ever to Play in the Super Bowl

Super Bowl 45: The Two Most Similar Teams Ever to Play in the Super Bowl

The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers may be the two most similar teams in the NFL.  And to be honest, I think that makes SB45 a fairly boring match-up for people who aren’t fans of either team.  You have two very, very good quarterbacks who often masquerade as elite players.  We’re going to learn a lot about the both of them in this game.  Roethlisberger and Rodgers rank 5th and 6th on my quarterback power rankings list, and I don’t have a particular preference to one or the other.

Both quarterbacks are having career years, elite seasons.  It is the second consecutive year that two quarterbacks having elite seasons have met in the super bowl.  Both teams have top five NFL receivers: Greg Jennings for the Packers, and Mike Wallace for the Steelers.  Both teams have veteran warhorse second receivers, Donald Driver and Hines Ward.  Either could call it a career after this game.  The running backs are not very similar: Green Bay has a 6th round rookie who didn’t play in the first 11 games of the season, James Starks, and Pittsburgh has a third year former first round draft pick, Rashard Mendenhall.  That may sound like a mismatch, and it may be, but in the regular season, Green Bay had the more efficient running game.

On the other end, if the game were to be decided by offensive line play, you’d think the Packers would win because the Steelers OL has been much-maligned this year.  Pittsburgh’s OL is going to have its issues, but Green Bay’s OL has mostly escaped criticism thanks to more protection-sound schemes and a personal improvement made by Aaron Rodgers this year.  Green Bay’s line is a problem area as well, if not a high profiled one.

Where the teams are really similar is on the defensive side of the football, since both coordinators hail from the same zone blitzing, pressure-scheme tree and team (the Steelers of the early nineties).  Both teams are talented loaded on defense, but perhaps more impressive are the injuries the Packers have overcome.  The Packers have the stronger of the two secondaries, which is notable only because Troy Polamalu plays in Pittsburgh’s secondary.  The Steelers are really banged up right now and have advanced regardless (thanks to some luck in terms of their opponents).  The Packers have been banged up all year, nearly causing them to miss the playoffs.  When they got in, they were handed the toughest road of any team, and played so well that they were never really in danger of losing to any of the NFC’s best.  They dispatched the 3, 1, and 2 seeds with ease, already having knocked another major contender, the Giants, from the playoffs altogether.  The Steelers should be nothing.

Except the Steelers concluded the regular season a stronger team than every one of the last four teams the Packers have beat.  Prior to the Giants game, the Packers lost consecutive decisions to the Lions and the Patriots, and knew that only a win vs. the Giants could save their season.  The Packers have been injury riddled since October, which almost gives them the big advantage in this game.  The Steelers are a very banged up team with a long injury list.  The Packers simply aren’t the same team they started they year as.  The Packers have been remarkably healthy since the start of their Week 16 playoff push, and they are undefeated since.

Every advantage in this game points to Green Bay, but it’s all very small advantages throughout, and easily overcome by some clock management errors by Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy in the last two minutes, opening up the door for some last minute Roethlisberger heroics.  My rule in picking playoff games is always side with the team who would win the blowout, regardless of who you trust in close situations.  That means I’m on the Green Bay Packer bandwagon for Sunday.  But in a defensive struggle that will be close throughout, Roethlisberger is only going to be one strike away from playoff immortality for most of 60 minutes Sunday.  Green Bay’s defense — like Pittsburgh’s — is going to need one or two big stops or turnovers to have a comfortable margin of victory.  At the end of the day, I think Green Bay gets the defensive stands they need, and I think Pittsburgh’s D gets stretched too thin one too many times on Sunday night.

It’s good that we had two weeks to sit and wait for this game.  I needed that long just to find ways to tell these teams apart.

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