Rodgers, Roethlisberger each super in their own way

February 01, 2011|Peter Schmuck

It should not surprise anyone that the big question hanging over the Super Bowl concerns the two guys who will be behind center when the Green Bay Packers and (ugh!) Pittsburgh Steelers face off on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

Will it come down to Aaron Rodgers' touch or Ben Roethlisberger's toughness?

Frankly, I was hoping everyone would be talking about Joe Flacco's cool demeanor at Super Bowl Media Day, but we'll have to settle for his cranky response to the recent firing of quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn.

Since the Ravens fumbled away their chance at greatness, there is nothing to do but order one of those styrofoam cheese hats, stock up on Doritos and try to divine how this quarterback matchup is going to shake out. Because that's what will determine who's going to be cuddling with the Lombardi Trophy late Sunday night.

Sure, there are two good defenses that are going to have a say in the outcome, but who really wants to hear again how the game is going to be won "in the trenches?" This isn't World War I. This is the Super Bowl, which usually comes down to the team that can make the biggest plays on football's biggest stage.

It's certainly possible that one of those big plays will be made by Steelers linebacker Troy Polamalu or some lesser known defensive player, but you know the odds. The ball starts out in the hands of the quarterback on every play from scrimmage, and most games are determined by what he does with it. The farther you get into the season and postseason, the more that seems to be true.

So, here we are with one game left and the spotlight is squarely on Roethisberger and Rodgers, who each can make a pretty good case for being the best quarterback to take the field Sunday.

If you want to go purely on credentials, it's hard to get away from Big Ben. He's already won a pair of Super Bowls and his 10-2 record in the postseason is beyond impressive. Rodgers has never been this far down the road in the postseason, so it's fair to wonder how well he'll hold up with everything on the line.

If you want to look at pure all-around ability, it's just as hard to get away from Rodgers. He's the whole package — a guy who can make the perfect pass and can find his way to the first-down marker if there's nobody open. Roethlisberger is a big, mobile guy who finds ways to make plays — which is no small thing — but Rodgers is the guy who always passes the look test.

There's way more to it than that, of course, which is why you're going to hear a lot of commentators talking this week about the intangibles that don't necessarily show up in the game summaries.

Roethlisberger, for instance, had a 35.5 quarterback rating in the AFC title game against the Jets and nearly came undone in the first half of the divisional playoff against the Ravens, but he generally finds some way to come up big when it really matters. He really is as tough and resourceful as advertised, though nobody in Baltimore needs to be reminded of that.

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata broke Roethlisberger's nose early in the second regular season game against the Steelers, but Big Ben stayed out there and eventually made the game-winning throw. The Ravens sacked him six times in the playoff game and he still brought the Steelers back from a big deficit to advance to the AFC championship game.

He isn't pretty, but he gets it done, which is why a lot of people were scratching their heads when the oddsmakers posted the Packers as a 2 ½-point favorite after the Super Bowl matchup was set last week.

Maybe they figured that Roethlisberger and the Steelers have pressed their luck too many times this year. Maybe they felt that Rodgers is ready to put it all together in prime time. Or maybe they just decided to go with style over substance.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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