Which one player is key to winning Super Bowl?

February 03, 2011

Raji is a force

David Haugh

Chicago Tribune

Expect the man who provided the Packers the NFC championship-winning touchdown to make the most difference in Super Bowl XLV.

Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji, whose fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown against the Bears paved the road to Dallas, can't wait to exploit perhaps the Steelers' only weakness. The Steelers likely will be without rookie Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who has a high ankle sprain and possible fracture. Replacement Doug Legursky could make his first start at the position.

If the Packers stop the run, the Steelers will become more one-dimensional and Ben Roethlisberger's pass-first mentality will play right into Dom Capers' attacking zone-blitz plan. That process starts with Raji, an increasingly dominant force in the middle who is such a good athlete the Packers have lined him up at fullback on short-yardage downs.


Mendenhall on the run

Sam Farmer

Los Angeles Times

Tell me how the Packers do at stopping Rashard Mendenhall, and I think I can tell you who wins this game.

If the Steelers are able to establish a running game and control the clock with Mendenhall, as they did against the Jets in the AFC championship game, they stand a good chance of winning. Mendenhall scored 78 points this season, becoming the first Steelers running back to lead the team in scoring since Franco Harris in 1977.

Establishing the run also would allow the Steelers to force extra Packers defenders to the line of scrimmage, opening the door to more passing opportunities. Green Bay certainly knows how to play the run. The Packers have allowed an average of 69.7 yards rushing in the postseason, second to Pittsburgh's 52.5.


Roethlisberger rules

Ken Murray

Baltimore Sun

Because it's a game ruled by quarterbacks, and because Ben Roethlisberger has been there twice before with success, I'll stay with the obvious and pick the Steelers' quarterback.

It won't be easy in the face of the Packers' attack defense and the blitzing prowess of Clay Matthews. But my expectation is that with center Maurkice Pouncey or without him — or any other configuration in the Steelers offensive line — Roethlisberger's ability to extend a play and make the defense pay will make the difference.

The Cardinals had the Steelers beaten in the Super Bowl two years ago, but an amazing throw by Roethlisberger and an amazing catch by Santonio Holmes denied the Cardinals a victory.

It could come down to a similarly amazing finish Sunday.


Polamalu, good or bad

Nick Fierro

Morning Call

Football has never been and never will be about one player. But if I have to pick one, I'm going with Steelers playmaking safety Troy Polamalu.

He has been hard to figure this season. Either he has hit a wall at age 29 or was just too dinged to be his normal self. Either way, he has lost a step. If he gets it back, he'll be involved in at least one game-changing turnover that will flip the momentum the Steelers' way for good.

If he doesn't, the Packers' deadly passing game will be significantly more difficult to solve, which would mean an almost certain Green Bay victory.

But since I believe this will be a low-scoring game, it also could turn into a kicking contest.


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