Super Bowl XLV Preview: Steelers Vs. Packers
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will meet on the NFL’s biggest stage tonight.
For Pittsburghers, seeing the Steelers competing on Super Bowl Sunday is an expectation. It’s not hard to see why. This will be the eighth Super Bowl appearance for the Steelers and the third in the last six years.
With a win over the Packers, the franchise will own a league-high seven Super Bowl titles.
For Green Bay, this will be their fifth trip to the Super Bowl and the first since losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. The franchise is 3-1 in the big game with their most recent title coming in Super Bowl XXXI.
Green Bay’s Road To The Super Bowl
It was an up and down season for the Green Bay Packers. They finished the season with a 10-6 record and have been playing playoff football since Week 16 of the regular season.
After a 31-27 loss on the road against the New England Patriots in Week 15, the Packers needed a win over the New York Giants to keep their season alive.
The Packers responded by pounding the Giants 45-17.
In Week 17, and needing just a win over the Chicago Bears to punch their ticket to the playoffs, Green Bay prevailed 10-3.
The win earned them the NFC’s No. 6 seed and a date with the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
With eight seconds left in the opening quarter, Aaron Rodgers connected with Tom Crabtree for a seven-yard touchdown to put Green Bay on the board first.
The Packers never trailed in the game and led 14-3 at the end of the first half.
However, Philadelphia was able to make it interesting in the third quarter.
Quarterback Mike Vick found Jason Avant for a 24-yard touchdown strike with 13:50 left in the quarter.
The Packers were not phased by the score and put the game away with a touchdown of their own on the ensuing drive.
Brandon Jackson caught a short pass from Rodgers and scampered 16 yards to the endzone to put Green Bay up 21-10.
The Eagles would add a touchdown of their own in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough as the Packers won 21-16.
Rodgers threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
Up next, the Packers traveled to Atlanta to take on the top-seeded Falcons in the NFC Divisional Round.
Things didn’t start out well for the Packers as Atlanta struck first on a 12-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner. Atlanta held their 7-0 lead into the second quarter, where the Packers woke up and took control of the game.
After the two teams traded touchdowns early in the quarter, John Kuhn powered his way into the endzone for a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14-14 with 6:06 left in the half. The score capped a 10-play, 92-yard drive.
With 48 seconds left in the first half, Rodgers found James Jones for a 20-yard touchdown strike to give the Packers their first lead of the game, 21-14.
Amazingly, the Packers weren’t done lighting up the scoreboard.
With Atlanta threatening to cut into the lead, Tramon Williams picked off Matt Ryan and returned it 70 yards to the endzone to put Green Bay up 28-14.
The pick-six proved to be the back-breaker for the Falcons, as the Packers rolled to a 48-21 win.
Rodgers completed 31 of his 36 pass attempts for 366 yards and three touchdowns in the game.
In the NFC Championship Game, Green Bay was pitted against division rival Chicago. Had the Bears won in their Week 17 matchup, Green Bay would have been watching the playoffs on television.
Instead, the Bears were given a second chance to knock the Packers out, but were once again unable.
With 10:50 to play in the opening quarter, Rodgers took it upon himself to score on a one-yard run to put the Packers up 7-0 early.
In the second quarter, James Starks extended the lead to 14-0 with a four-yard touchdown run. Green Bay would hold the 14-0 edge at the end of the first half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Packers were 15 minutes away from the Super Bowl.
Chicago finally gave the Soldier Field faithful something to cheer about when Chester Taylor scored on a one-yard run to cut the lead in half.
The defense stepped up and forced the Packers to punt, but it was the Green Bay defense that would have the last laugh.
Caleb Hanie’s pass was intercepted by B.J. Raji, who ran it back 18 yards for a touchdown to regain the 14-point edge, 21-7.
However, Haine shook it off and responded by hooking up with Earl Bennett for a 35-yard touchdown with 4:43 to play.
Once again, the Packers were forced to punt and Chicago had over three minutes to potentially tie the game.
Facing a fourth-and-four, Hanie dropped back and forced a pass downfield. Sam Shields came up with the interception to crush the Bears’ hopes and send the Packers to the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh’s Road To The Super Bowl
The Steelers finished the regular season with a 12-4 record, which was good enough to clinch the AFC North title and lock up the No. 2 seed.
After their first-round bye in the playoffs, Pittsburgh played host to the hated Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round.
Rashard Mendenhall drew first blood in the game with a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
However, the Ravens responded with 21 unanswered points to take a 21-7 lead at halftime.
Fans were stunned to see their team trailing, but the Steelers came out in the second half with a renewed sense of purpose.
The comeback began when Ryan Clark forced a fumble with just over 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.
Ben Roethlisberger capped the scoring drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller with 9:11 left in the quarter.
Later in the quarter, Clark struck again. This time, he came up with a huge interception to set up the game-tying touchdown.
Roethlisberger connected with Hines Ward for an eight-yard touchdown to knot the score at 21 with 1:21 to play in quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Joe Flacco fumbled a snap and Brett Keisel fell on it giving Pittsburgh the ball back on Baltimore’s 23-yard line.
However, they would have to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham to regain the lead 24-21.
Later, Baltimore forced the Steelers to go three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, Lardarius Webb returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. However, a holding penalty negated it and the Ravens would eventually settle for a 24-yard field goal to tie the game at 24 with 3:55 to play.
That was more than enough time for Roethlisberger to lead the Steelers down the field for the game-winning touchdown.
On a third-and-19, Roethlisberger went to the air and found Antonio Brown streaking down the sidelines for 58 yards. He was forced out of bounds at the Ravens’ four-yard line.
Mendenhall sealed the deal with a two-yard touchdown run with 1:33 to play.
Pittsburgh would get to stay in town for the AFC Championship game after the New York Jets stunned the top-seeded New England Patriots.
The high-flying Jets rolled into town with plenty of supporters. Chants of “J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!” greeted the team at their hotel.
On Sunday, Steelers fans would be altering the chant to “J-E-T-S, Just Ended Their Season!”
Pittsburgh started the game with the ball and marched down the field to score the game’s first points. Rashard Mendenhall’s one-yard touchdown run capped a 15-play, 66-yard drive that took over nine minutes.
The Steelers’ defense held the Jets in check for most of the first half, limiting them to only a 42-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
Pittsburgh was dominant on both sides of the ball in the first half and the game showed early signs of being a blowout.
Shaun Suisham drilled a 20-yard field goal with 6:54 left in the second quarter to extend the lead to 10-0.
After forcing the Jets’ offense to go three-and-out, Pittsburgh got the ball back and added to their lead.
Roethlisberger found Heath Miller and Emmanuel Sanders for gains of 24 and 20 yards respectively to move Pittsburgh down the field quickly.
On the seventh play of the drive, Roethlisberger called his own number and scored on a two-yard run to give Pittsburgh a 17-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive for New York, they were facing a third-and-17 from their own 26-yard line. Things went from bad to worse, as Ike Taylor sacked quarterback Mark Sanchez. The ball came loose and was picked up by William Gay and returned to the endzone to put the Steelers up 24-0.
That play proved to be the difference in the game as the Jets came out in the second half with a vengeance.
Sanchez went deep to former-Steeler Santonio Holmes for a 45-yard touchdown with 12:13 left in the third quarter. The touchdown gave the Jets a pulse and cut the lead to 24-10.
The score would remain unchanged until the fourth quarter when a bad case of déjà vu hit the Steelers.
When the two teams met in Week 15, a safety proved to be a key moment in the game as the Jets went on to win 22-17.
In the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers were backed up against their own goal line in the fourth quarter. On first down, a bad exchange between Doug Legursky and Roethlisberger led to another safety. Pittsburgh’s lead was reduced to 24-12 with 7:38 to play.
As a result of the safety, the Jets got the ball back and were able to cut into the lead even more.
Jericho Cotchery’s four-yard touchdown reception with 3:06 left got New York within five points.
The Jets’ defense needed to quickly force the Steelers to punt in order to have a shot at winning the game.
However, Roethlisberger had other ideas.
On third-and-six from the Jets’ 40-yard line with 1:58 to play, Roethlisberger scrambled and found Antonio Brown for 14 yards to seal the game.
Roethlisberger only had to kneel-down from that point to run out the clock and send the Steelers to the Super Bowl.
History Between The Steelers And Packers
Green Bay leads the all-time series 21-14, but this will be the first time the teams have met in the postseason.
The most recent meeting came last year in Week 15. Pittsburgh won the game 37-36 with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Wallace as time expired.
Roethlisberger threw for 503 yards and three touchdowns, while Rodgers threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns.
Wallace only had two catches for 79 yards, but both found pay dirt.
Since the NFL merger in 1970, the Steelers are 6-3 against the Packers.
Roethlisberger is 10-2 in the playoffs and the team is 5-1 under head coach Mike Tomlin. After losing his first playoff game, the Steelers have won five straight with Tomlin at the helm.
Roethlisberger will become the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start his third Super Bowl in his first seven years in the league. Only, Tom Brady, Jim Kelly, John Elway, Troy Aikman and Bob Griese have accomplished that feat.
Should he lead the Steelers to their seventh Super Bowl title, he would join Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Aikman and Brady as the only quarterbacks to win at least three championships.