Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men
Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Ben Muth

Longtime readers of Word of Muth know that this column has been about what has happened, not what will happen. It's a lot easier to be right when you write about the past than it is when you try to predict the future.

For instance, after the divisional round it was pretty easy to say Ramon Foster played poorly and be correct (which this column did; I am a professional). However, it would have been really impressive, and almost impossible, to predict that Ramon Foster would play really well in the conference championship game in that same week (I did not do this; it's still my first year after all). Since I like being right, or at least having a chance of being right, I have kept this column focused on the past -- until now.

Since all football fans, writers, players, bloggers, analysts, and trained animals with possible psychic abilities must have a Super Bowl prediction, I have decided to make mine. (Also, if I didn't write a prediction column this week I would have been forced to write a Pro Bowl column, which would mean actually watching and then re-watching the Pro Bowl). I'm going to focus on the offensive lines and front sevens for both teams because that's what I know best; therefore that's what I'd be most confident basing my prediction on. But even I am willing to admit that there is more to football than the trenches, and those other phases will be discussed as well, though in less detail.

Most people seem to agree the game will be close, but more people seem to be picking the Packers. The most common reason is the advantage their defensive front seven has over the Steelers offensive line. I can certainly see this line of thinking -- no one has devoted more words to criticizing Pittsburgh's offensive line than I -- but I think that advantage is being exaggerated, especially in the running game.

The Packers have a big and physical defensive line (all three starters are over three bills). They like to get into offensive linemen, knock them back, and shed them to make plays in the backfield. If there is one thing that Pittsburgh's offensive line has, it is size (if there are two things, they have size and poor health). It will be tough to knock back guys as big as Flozell Adams, Ramon Foster, and Chris Kemoeatu. The best matchup the Packers have up front is Cullen Jenkins against Jonathan Scott, which is a decent-sized mismatch. However, the Steelers prefer to run to the right, which should diminish the effectiveness of Green Bay's best defensive lineman.

The Steelers offensive linemen is at their best when they can get into defensive linemen and swallow them up, simply holding them long enough for Rashard Mendenhall to find a crease. The offensive line struggles much more with quickness and movement than it does with size and strength. The Packers defensive line's style plays right into Pittsburgh's hands.

I'm not saying that Pittsburgh will dominate the line of scrimmage; the Packers front seven is still the better unit. What I'm saying is that if Pittsburgh had to choose a top five defensive front to play against, they may choose the Packers because of the style. The great equalizer for Green Bay should be their outside linebackers, particularly Clay Matthews.

In the running game, the Steelers offensive linemen will rarely be blocking these types of athletes. That responsibility will fall to their tight ends, mainly Heath Miller. I'm a big fan of Miller as a blocker. He was probably the best blocking tight end I saw this year, and I actually think he is capable of handling either Matthews or Erik Walden in the running game by himself.

The Steelers also use trips bunch formations in the ground game, which should help handle these edge players. The outside linebackers will be forced to align wider against these types of formations. If Miller can hold his own against the outside linebackers in standard formations and personnel (which I think he can) and the Steelers can handle the inside linebackers with just their offensive line in three wide receiver sets, I think the Steelers have a good chance of running the ball like they did against the Jets.

Of course, most people's concern with the Pittsburgh offensive line stems from their inability to protect Ben Roethlisberger. However, I think that the Packers front three will struggle to get pressure on Roethlisberger. With the exception of Jenkins, none of the Packers defensive linemen are particularly quick. Most of them are bull rushers with club counters, meaning they like to fire into an offensive lineman and get him off balance before using their forearm to club the defender to one side or the other.

As I mentioned earlier, the Steelers struggle up front when they can't get their hands on people and are forced to deal with space. The Green Bay defensive line tries to eliminate space to create push, which is what the slower, heavier Steelers offensive line would prefer. Maurkice Pouncey is the one Steelers player who has the most trouble with pure strength, and he will likely be out. His replacement, Doug Legursky, might actually be better equipped to handle this kind of pass rush, especially considering that Pouncey will be limited if he does play. Legursky's short and stocky build should be ideal for handling bull rushes and clubs -- his low center of gravity should keep him fairly stable.

All that being said, there is still the issue of Clay Matthews in the passing game. Matthews has a high motor and a lot of herky-jerky, jab-step oriented moves that will be a nightmare for Pittsburgh's offensive tackles. If there is one thing the Pittsburgh tackles struggle with, particularly Adams, it is change of direction. I don't think the Steelers have an answer for the former Trojan.

Since they don't have an answer, they are going to have to try several. I think the key will be to mix up the looks he gets. Basically this means keeping in Heath Mille to help block, chipping with a running back, and sliding the protection toward him as often as possible. One thing Bruce Arenas has shown is a willingness to change protections and keep skill players in to help protect his quarterback.

While everyone seems to be talking about the mismatch for the Pittsburgh offensive line, the Green Bay offensive line has flown under the radar. The Packers offensive line was bad last year, and while it improved this year, is still not dominant. They have to find a way to deal with a very good defensive front.

The Steelers have the best defense in the NFL, and it is largely due to their front seven. Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Casey Hampton are all very physical players that are exceptional against the run. The Packers offensive line has struggled to open up running lanes all year. I firmly believe that the Steelers will be able to contain the run with little help from the secondary. This means the Packers are going to have to throw the ball against complete defensive secondaries. Luckily that is an area in which they excel.

The problem with being forced to throw the ball a lot is handling the pass rush. Once defenders can feel a team abandoning the running game, they begin unleashing their best pass rush moves. James Harrison may be the best pass rusher in the NFL (his jab step in/quick swim out is up there with the Dwight Freeney swim in pass-rush moves), and he is always going to be a factor, but I think the real problem for the Packers will be LaMarr Woodley.

Woodley will probably be matched up against rookie Bryan Bulaga for the majority of the game. Bulaga is a solid player, particularly for a rookie, but he has a tendency to lead with his head in pass protection. Woodley's best move seems to be a pull/rip, in which he grabs the back of a lineman's shoulder pad, pulls it towards him, then rips through with his inside arm. If Bulaga leads with his head, it makes it much easier to grab that shoulder because it will be much closer. I guarantee you that Bulaga has seen the same thing and will come into the game with a plan. But as the game goes along, it will become easier for Bulaga to fall into his old habits. The Packers could try to deal with Woodley the way the Steelers will try to deal with Matthews, but then you probably aren't focusing enough attention on the Steelers' best rusher, Harrison.

One advantage both offenses have over the defenses is familiarity. Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau run very similar defenses, meaning both of these offenses have seen this style of 3-4 zone pressure defense more than any other kind of scheme. Both quarterbacks and offensive lines should recognize most of the blitzes they see, which takes away a big advantage both defenses usually have (the 3-4's pass rush usually comes from half outside linebacker ability, and half offensive confusion) .

The Steelers and Packers have very different offenses, so they have a better chance of outright fooling the defenses. I think that's part of the reason last year's game was such shoot out. (I think it was 128-117, but you may want to Google that.) Both defenses are better this year than last, but schematic familiarity is certainly one advantage these seemingly over matched offensive lines have.

After a lot of thought, I am of the opinion that the Steelers offensive line actually matches up better for this game than the Green Bay offensive line. Green Bay's unit is better, but it has to block the best front seven in football. Pittsburgh's offensive line is pretty bad, but the Packers have a really good defensive front that happens to play to Pittsburgh's strengths. If you are going to go against superior talent, it's best to go against superior talent that you can bring down to your level. In the trenches, I would give the slightest of edges to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When it comes to skill positions it's pretty even. I think Mendenhall is clearly the best running back in the game. He is a good pass blocker, which he will have to be this week, and a better with the ball in his hands than any Packers runners. I like Green Bay's wide receivers more: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson are all threats to make a big play and all have had games where they have broken out. Still, I think Mike Wallace is the best receiver in the game and has the chance to make the biggest impact.

The secondaries are a lot like the receiving corps, in the sense that I think the Packers have the better unit, but Pittsburgh has the best player (his name rhymes Smolamalu). I would like to be able to go to individual matchups like I did up front, but I'm not comfortable enough with my knowledge of these players and schemes to do that. So instead I'm calling it a wash and going to the quarterbacks.

One thing I'm certain of after doing all my research is that this will be a close game. There's a good chance that this game is going to come down to two of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL, that's how even the teams are. And that's why I'm picking the Steelers.

I'm not going to break down the individual merits of the two quarterbacks -- many other people have done it better than I can -- but I think they're both great. All I know is that, in a close game, I'm not sure I would take anyone over Ben Roethlisberger, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't take Aaron Rodgers. Maybe it's because I saw what Roethlisberger did to my favorite team, the Cardinals, two years ago and that memory is burned into my brain. Maybe it's because Rodgers went to Cal, and he seemed to lose a lot of close games there and in Green Bay. But it probably has to do with the fact that I know Roethlisberger can do it in the Super Bowl, and I'm only pretty sure that Rodgers can do it. In a game where the teams are this even, pretty sure doesn't seem to cut it.

Steelers 23, Packers 20


62 comments, Last at 06 Feb 2011, 2:38pm

1 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

This is the best Super Bowl analysis I've read. Thanks again for bringing in a lineman's perspective, things like the Bulaga v. Woodley technique matchup are really interesting and pretty much impossible to get anywhere else.

4 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

While I understand the desire to have a prediction with a close score, I see this game playing out differently. I think one of the teams is going to exploit a couple matchups, and the other team will play badly (partly because of it).

Winner: 27
Loser: 17

5 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

If Ben's prediction is right, do we chalk this up to beginner's luck, or superior analysis?
I see this a being a game of big plays. Both offenses are good enough to move the ball down the field in 5-7 yd. chunks, but both defenses are better at causing negative plays that will eventually cause punts. In other words, if I had to choose 1 stat that will determine the winner, I am going with 20+yd. plays, even at the expense of turnover differential (which, iirc, is the stat the most often determines the winner of a game--besides points-for-minus-points-allowed, of course.)
This may not be the best thread for this, but I ask readers to pick--what stat will determine the winner (besides final score, obviously)?

6 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Raji is actually pretty quick and the Packer pass rush relies more on confusion than on strength so I think what you talked about as the weakness of the Steelers O-line is going to cause a lot more problems than you suggest.

20 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

You're making two separate points here as though they're one.

1. Raji is quick, and that quickness, rather than a focus on the bull rush, is the dominant feature of his pass rush style.
2. The Green Bay pass rush relies on confusion rather than strength.

Raji may very well be quick, but as Ben pointed out, his technique is bull rush, not finesse. The Steelers are equipped to deal with rushers using that technique, even if they're quick.

The Green Bay pass rush, as a whole, may very well rely on confusion, but that aspect of confusion will be minimized because the Steelers offense sees a similar defense very frequently and thus will be less confused.

26 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Yeah, Raji's main method of pass rush is bull rush, but it tends to be effective because his quickness can get him into lineman quickly, and thus not allowing them the leverage to use their own girth.

At any rate, I think Jenkins play is very important. Jenkins is not a bull rusher at all. He uses a combination of quickness, power, and a really nice swim move. Jenkins in the best pass rusher on the d-line, not Raji.

7 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men


Do you have any thoughts on Kurt Warner's suggestion of using 4 and 5 wides extensively and what this does to Pittsburgh's front 7? It seems like using 3 wides with an athletic TE (Quarless) and a RB receiving threat (B. Jackson) and then lining up 4 or 5 wide could really force Harrison and Woodley out of rushing the passer.


10 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

To be fair, Aaron Rodgers basically did THE EXACT SAME THING in the NFC Championship Game against the Bears. It was basically the same play with the same player coming down with the ball. The only difference is that Rodgers is 27 and athletic, and Warner was 37 and not.

That being said, I doubt Harrison covers that well given placement on the field anywhere NOT within 5-7 yards of goal line, so I would take my chances with spreading them out.

37 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

That actually made me LOL, so well done.

To be fair though, its pretty sound advice. I think what he learned was that its best to KNOW what Harrison is doing, rather than assuming. Warner's always said he just didn't see the guy dropping into coverage. No excuse for not running him down. I'm in England and I reckon I could have beat Harrison to the endzone.

IMO, that's what the Packers will do though - it seems to me that the Steelers don't have 4 CBs who can cover their 4 WRs.

I also think that Sam Shields and the Packers safeties are going to need to have a big day. There's going to be a time when Shields is up against Mike Wallace going deep.

9 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

As a Steelers fan, I pray the Packers use 4 or 5 WRs extensively. Incomplete, sack, three-yard-gain, interception, sack, throwaway, sack-with-forced-fumble. Seriously, those offensive sets announce "Please tee off on our quarterback."

11 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Given that Rodgers moves pretty well both inside and outside the pocket, and given that he has one of the quickest releases in the league whether he is in the pocket or on the run (for proof, see: Falcons v Packers, 2011 divisional round), teeing off on the quarterback is not a great plan.

In fact, this is actually a bad plan against both of these quarterbacks, and I would not be surprised to see both teams try it once and get a bad return on the investment. This will be a very skittish game from both sides of both teams.

16 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I have a huge amount of respect for Rodgers, but if the Steelers' psss rushers get the free shots at Rodgers that the Falcons' pass rushers whiffed on, especially in the first half, I suspect this game belongs to the Steelers.

21 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Oh. Believe me -- I know the dangers of the open-field running quarterback and the injuries that can come of it. And yes, Rodger is probably not as good as taking a hit as Big Ben. But to say that an injury to a starting quarterback spells doom is just about as bland commentary as can be made.

With that, the point is still valid, and if Rodgers takes some early shots similar to what happened in Chicago, it could get ugly. I just hope he is a bit safer than he has been. I trust Matt Flynn in a way, but I do not want to see him on the field in the first half.

23 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I'm not talking about knocking Rodgers out of the game, just hitting him hard, and I don't mean that as a harsh critique of Rodgers. He's clearly a terrfic player. My impression, however, is that his effectiveness starts down a pretty steep path once he starts getting smacked around. This is true of most, maybe nearly all, qbs, but perhaps what I am saying is that when Rodgers starts down that slope, he is coming from a very high beginning point, so the drop seems extremely dramatic. A team that had a track record of running effetively perhaps could cover for this better, but the Packers really to seem to rely, more than the norm, on their qb being razor-sharp.

32 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Given that Rodgers moves pretty well both inside and outside the pocket, and given that he has one of the quickest releases in the league ...

... you just run 3 WR sets, plus a TE and RB that stay in if there's someone to block and release if there isn't. If the Steelers rush five or more, your blockers pick up the rushers for a second or two, and Rodgers quickly finds the open WR. If the Steelers rush four, Rodgers checks down to the TE or RB, picking up seven yards while the players in coverage are hurrying back towards the line of scrimmage. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

12 Skill positions...

I would actually heartily disagree with Muth's analysis on the skill position matchups. Mendenhall is NOT the best back in the game - maybe the best back in the superbowl. that being said, he's a very good back. but there are better backs out there. also, i wouldn't say that mike wallace is better than the green bay receivers - and depth is usually better than having one super-duper star, in my opinion.

but the offensive line/front seven stuff was gold

13 Re: Skill positions...

In reply to by andy (not verified)

I assume by 'the game' he meant the game that is to be played on Sunday. Not to say that the rest of the skill position stuff was that great. The line stuff was interesting (in a good way), and always a good read.

14 Re: Skill positions...

In reply to by andy (not verified)

I think when he says "the game" he means 'the game on Sunday' not 'the game of football'.

I've watched a lot of both the Steelers and the Pack this year. I'm not sure which receiving corp I think is better at this stage in the season.

39 Re: Skill positions...

In reply to by andy (not verified)

As already stated, he clearly meant the best RB in the Superbowl, not the best RB in the NFL.

And Wallace is probably the best WR of the bunch. Overall, GB has more proven depth...but it's hard to argue against Wallace being the biggest threat.

43 Re: Skill positions...

In reply to by andy (not verified)

Ben plainly meant Super Bowl 45 when he referred to 'the best X in the game.' He just bumped into a cliche.

Although you could make a fair argument--and cite DYAR and DVOA to support your case--that Mike Wallace is actually the best wide receiver in the NFL, at least this season.

15 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Terrific stuff. If the Steelers can pop Rodgers hard in the first half, prior to the Packers getting a two score lead, I think they'll win comfortably, meaning by 7 or more. If the Packers can jump out to a 10 point lead by midway through the 2nd quarter, I think they'll win comfortably. If Rodgers or Roethlisberger haven't been smacked around much by halftime, and the game is close, then I wouldn't even venture a guess.

Some random bounce or penalty has a good chance of deciding the game.

17 Typo: Bruce Arians

I believe you meant to say Bruce Arians, not Arenas. Unless the NFL lockout already happened, and we're talking about the other futbol. In that case, viva Chicharito!

18 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I think the analysis is good here but I disagree with some of the conclusions. The Pittsbugh offensive line is slow and the speed of the Green Bay defensive front is good. The injury to Pouncey is critical; even if he does play a high ankle sprain is going to limit his mobility and likely his effectiveness and if he doesn't play that is a serious loss. (I geenerally believe that losing your quarterback is only slightly worse than losing your center.) The field is better suited to the faster group and while the Steelers have some individual speed the Packers have the advantage as a group.

If Green Bay take a lead of any signifigance I expect that Pittsburgh would have trouble coming back. Pittsburgh will have to control the tempo of the game and establish the running game to keep the Green Bay defense "honest". Too often though they have gotten pass-happy and I just don't think that they are likely to win a shootout if that happens though I would give them a slight edge in a closely contested, low scoring game.

19 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I want to also add that if Ben could find the time to an analysis like this next year, each week, for one prominent game, I could very confidently say that this site would not only be far superior to anything done by mainstream football punditry sites (which it already is), but would be many gigaparsecs ahead, to go all astronomical.

34 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Yeah, it would be great. but to do this kind of analysis every week, Ben would have to watch a LOT of video. This column was, and still is, terrific for learning about line play, and I wouldn't want to lose that for previews of the game of the week.

22 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Since mid way through the season when Muth picked up the Steelers* and dovetailed with my interests, I've come to appreciate this column as one of the best, most-interesting columns in sports journalism. Despite going out of his comfort zone and offering a preview this week instead of an analysis, this article delivers big. So, from the peanut gallery, compliments to the author.

*I'm sure its was good before then too, I was just foolishly not paying enough attention.

24 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I enjoyed this piece, as I always do, but was a little disappointed there wasn't more individual attention paid to the Packers o-line. I thought Josh Sitton had a heck of a year. The kind of year that should get him acknowledged by announcers, fans and the AP next year when he may or may not deserve it as happens with offensive linemen.

38 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Fair enough, but Muth hasn't focussed on the Packers line this year, whereas he has on the Steelers'. One of the aspects I appreciate about this column is that the writer openly acknowledges when he doesn't know or hasn't studied something, and does not attempt to digress into detail on items outside of his areas of expertise. It's much more genuine that way in that I feel these are actually Muth's own opinions he has formed through his own studying, rather than just re-hashing other people's ideas which is what most writers do.

27 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

It was a great article right up until the last paragraph, where you graded quaterbacks based on wins. How is anyone, much less an FO writer, giving Roethlisberger credit for beating Seattle in '06 while putting in a performance even Trent Dilfer would've been ashamed of?

I'm not saying Big Ben is a bad QB, if I was rating all the current starters in the NFL he'd probably come in at 6th on my list. But he's been only marginally above average in the playoffs, with an average QB rating of 85.0 in playoffs games versus 83.8 for other QBs since 2004 (from www.pro-football-reference.com with a minimum of 8 attempts). What's notable is that in his three worst playoff performances, the Steelers won anyway. It really seems he's had a lot of help:


" But it probably has to do with the fact that I know Roethlisberger can do it in the Super Bowl, and I'm only pretty sure that Rodgers can do it."

Only if "it" is "throw an interception and get bailed out by the best defense in the league."

40 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

"But [Ben]'s been only marginally above average in the playoffs, with an average QB rating of 85.0."

Ben's playoff passer rating is 85.4

Brady's passer rating in the playoffs: 85.7

Peyton Manning: 88.4

Philip Rivers: 79.2

"Only if "it" is "throw an interception and get bailed out by the best defense in the league."

So I guess you didnt watch the Green Bay-Chicago game two weeks ago?


In Rogers worst playoff performance (0 TD's, 2 INTS) his team won anyway. It really seems he's had a lot of help.

41 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I know you are a Pittsburgh fan, but try not to get so angry. Ben played perhaps the WORST Super Bowl of any quarterback in the history of the game. To say HE won it is a stretch to all but the staunchest of Pittsburgh Steeler fans and Big Ben supporters. (Though, I will say, his second Super Bowl was a real treat, and definitely had some fine moments.)

If you say Rodgers got bailed out his team in the championship game, I will agree. But did YOU watch the Steelers game against the Jets? Ben had quite a lot of help too. It happens. Stop being dramatic.

46 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I know you are a Pittsburgh fan, but try not to get so angry. Ben played perhaps the WORST Super Bowl of any quarterback in the history of the game.

Roethlisberger was a very bad passer in Super Bowl XL: 9-21-123-0-2. (His rushing line of 7 carries for 25 yards and a third-down touchdown isn't bad, though, and he did throw a key, if relatively easy, block on El's touchdown pass.)

But the hyperbole is unnecessary and suggests that you've forgotten some truly awful quarterback performances in the Super Bowl: XX (Tony Eason, 0-6-0-0-0 before being pulled); VII (Billy Kilmer, 14-28-104-0-3); IX (Fran Tarkenton, 11-26-102-0-3); XXXV (Kerry Collins, 15-39-112-0-4); III (Earl Morrall, 6-17-71-0-3 before being pulled); and the granddaddy of them all, XII (Craig Morton, 4-15-39-0-4 plus three lost fumbles before being pulled).

Or maybe you meant "the worst winning Super Bowl".

48 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

You provide some really good examples. Most of those Super Bowl performances were forgettable, and I definitely have blocked out Kerry Collins' game against the Ravens. But the point still stands -- in a game that has happened 44 times, using one hand to enumerate the amount of players Ben bested is still damning praise.

But yes, to make the argument stronger, allow me to modify it by saying he had perhaps the worst performance by a quarterback for a winning Super Bowl team.


49 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I am not angry. I was simply pointing out that most of what the OP said was incorrect and/or unverifiable. Pointing out Ben's postseason passer rating as a negative while ignoring that it is on par, or better, that some of the QB's in the league some consider to be superior to him is biased.

You tell me not to be dramatic in the same breath as "Ben played perhaps the WORST Super Bowl of any quarterback in the history of the game".

Ben's passer rating was bad, sure. Was it the worst ever? No. John Elway had a lower one, Fran Tarkenton had a lower one (you may recognize those names as HOF'ers), and as mentioned several other QB's did as well.

And finally, exactly where did I say that Ben single handidly won SBXL?

45 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I never understand why people try to counter a point by saying the same applies to the opposition. You cannot deny that Roethlisberger got helped by the defense by pointitng out that Rodgers has been helped by the defense as well.

Last time I checked it was a team game.

50 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

The assertion was that Ben is not better than Rogers (at least in the context of the playoffs/SB) because all he does it throw INT's and get bailed out by his defense.

Yes, it is a team game...which is exactly what I pointed out. Rogers needs his team as well.

52 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

In the playoffs (and regular season) Rodger's performaces should've led to more wins than he's actually gotten, while Rothlesburger's individual performances should've resulted in fewer wins than he's had (at least according to the River's Index). My problem is with Mr. Muth's attempt to attribute some kind of pseudo-mysitcal abilities to Big Ben based on a few hand-picked plays. There's really no indication yet that Rothlesburger is any better or worse in big games than any other Pro-Bowl level quarterback, and as you've pointed out, even hall-of-fame quality quarterbacks rarely look exceptional based solely on their playoff performances. As others have mentioned, Rothlesburger has played some outstanding playoff games, which is to be expected from a top-tier quarterback. He's also had some real stinkers; again, not at all uncommon. Also not very predictive of likely future performance.

However, since the article was specifically about the Super Bowl, and if you want to grade Rothlesburger on that sample (of size = 2) then history would indicate that Rothlesburger is likely to put in a mediocre to poor performance (~200 yards, 0.5 TD and 1.5 INT if we average his previous performances) which was what I was getting at with the "throw an INT and get bailed out by his defense" comment. Apparently I need to be more careful about unintentionally trolling in the future. :P

Of course making a prediction like this would be beyond even "ESPN Talking Head" level of stupid. Rothlesburger has VASTLY improved since 2006, holding that performance against him now would require large amounts of willful ignorance. But so would labeling him the better "big-game" player based on one last-minute TD pass.

56 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

While everyone carps about Big Ben's Super Bowl XL stats and his 22.6 rating in that game, most people do not realize that his cumulative QB rating for all 4 playoff games (three of which were on the road against the top 3 seeds in the AFC) was 101.7 (including his 22.6 rating in the Super Bowl).

In the 2005 playoffs, as a 23 year-old second year starter, he threw for 7 TDs, 3 INTs and ran for 2 TDs. His average yards per attempt, probably the most important stat, was 8.6.

29 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Steelers average 27 points a game in the 12 post season games Ben has led them in. That seems pretty good. He's also been very good on 3rd down in the post season since 05 playoffs. A couple of things of observation. People who constantly note his performance in the 05 SB, rarely mention he was the youngest QB to ever play in that game. Furthermore, had it not been for his absolutely superior work in the 3 playoff games prior to playing in the SB, there is a good chance he wouldn't have an opportunity to play against Seattle. He's the reason they got to the SB. He had superior road passer ratings. He made a key tackle. He made blocks. He ran for first downs and Td's.

30 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Another way to look at it is: Pittsburgh doesn't have the kind of quick, athletic offensive line that would give the Packer fatties fits. So Sunday shouldn't be a nightmare repeat of the Terrell Davis Show from years ago.

I, too, think the Packers' offensive line might be the weakest link in this game. It doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes as a unit, but there are a lot of one-on-ones that it half-loses, especially in the running game. If the Green Bay RBs manage 50 yards between them I'll be surprised (but happy).

As for the difference-maker, I think there's a good chance we'll see a defensive touchdown, and in what's likely to be a low-scoring game it could be crucial.

35 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I would think the GB down linemen would be perfectly happy to play against a quicker, lighter offensive line. Seems like those are the kinds of players who would be easier to bull-rush. The GB linebackers might be a different story.

33 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I think this whole notion that Rodgers game goes downhill after getting hit ridiculous. Rodgers has taken numerous shots, including to the head that went uncalled, and played through them.

To use the singular event of the Peppers hit as evidence fails to recognize the following:

--McCarthy routinely shuts things down in the fourth quarter with a lead
--It wasn't Rodgers who dropped a pass (Quarles) that would have made a key third down against the Bears or called handoffs that went nowhere (see above)
--the refs were only calling the most obvious of secondary penalties and the Bears took full advantage to slow down the Packer receivers in a desperate attempt to get back in the game

In the Steelers game last year as the author notes above Rodgers took a HUGE blow to the head and proceeded to shred the Steeler secondary. A hit, by the way, that even the doofus twins of FOX thought warranted a flag which was not thrown.

Will Rodgers get hit on Sunday? Yes. Can Rodgers take a hit and continue to play at a high level. Certainly. Now, if Rodgers takes repeated big hits including shots to the head then yes, expect a performance impact. But that would apply to any player much less a quarterback.

The notion that if you hit Rodgers solid he wilts is silly.

42 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Every quarterback's performance goes downhill with a lot of hits. Teams which have offenses which more centrally revolve around the qb being extremely sharp, because they don't run all that well, will suffer more dropoff, relative to others, when the quarterback gets hit a lot. Some guys, like Peyton Manning, deal with this situation by getting rid of the ball, come hell or high water, before they can get drilled. Other guys, probably most frequently younger guys with very good mobility, don't play the same way, and give more opportunity for pass rushers to get their shots.

44 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I actually thought that was one of the few smart and insightful things Easterbrook observed this year: that the defensive plan that worked so well against the Patriots (smother the field in DBs and hit Brady) wouldn't work against the Steelers, because when the Jets hit Brady a few times early, he got to unloading the ball early to avoid getting crushed. (Like most immobile QBs wisely do.) Whereas you can hit Roethlisberger all you want and he doesn't care. Roethlisberger is a freak that way, and it makes him uniquely suited to play behind an o-line as weak as Pittsburgh's.

It makes Pittsburgh's choice of backup curious, too. Should Roethlisberger go down, say, early in the 2nd quarter, I have serious reservations that Byron Leftwich could last until halftime. And Charlie Batch playing three games in a row without going on IR was a personal best for him since about 2001, too.

47 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Should Roethlisberger go down, say, early in the 2nd quarter, I have serious reservations that Byron Leftwich could last until halftime. And Charlie Batch playing three games in a row without going on IR was a personal best for him since about 2001, too.

No, see, the plan after Roethlisberger goes down is: Leftwich to get us to halftime, Batch in the third quarter, Ward for most of the fourth quarter, and El to mop up.

51 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Ben, I will wear my Dockett jersey on Sunday if only to hope that somehow I can get an update on GBHSTT

53 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

So, the irrational Rodgers-Roethlisberger thread...

I don't understand Muth's point either. Roethlisberger getting credit for Super Bowl wins is even sillier than Brady being crowned king prior to 2007 for the same reason. At least Brady had to create field goal drives at the end.

Certainly there's no question Rodgers is the more skilled player (and I think Muth may give Green Bay's offensive line a little more credit than it deserves), but playing against Pittsburgh's defense is a pretty serious handicap.

54 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I think people are overstating their cases in attempting to disagree with the article. "It" could very well mean "not completely implode and throw a pick on every play due to the Super Bowl pressure." And Muth would be right. Ben has proven that he is capable of that since he already has. Rodgers is only extremely likely to do that.

I also disagree with "certainly there's no question Rodgers is the more skilled player." It's questionable. I tend to agree that Rodgers is more skilled, but I think it's very close. And you could also argue that one has proven skilled over a longer period of time, which lowers the chances of regression.

58 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

So, Big Ben is a better player than Rodgers because Rodgers can't lead his team to come back, when he wins games he just wins them outright? There were four games that Rodgers finished this season that the Packers lost, none of which prove that he doesn't have the "it" to come back:

Chicago: Down by less than a TD late in the fourth quarter, Rodgers hits James Jones inside the 30 for a first down. James Jones fumbles. Clearly, that is Rodgers' fault.

Washington: After Clay Matthews gets injured, the Redskins come back. They score with enough time to give the Packers a shot at closing the game out. Rodgers gets the Packers close enough to try a field goal; however, it hits the left upright halfway up and clangs off to the left. Clearly, if that ball bounces to the right instead of the left, Rodgers is a better quarterback.

Miami: Down 7 with 5 minutes to play, Rodgers leads a 69 drive that concludes with a 4th and 1 goal line sneak with 13 seconds left to tie the game. They went on to lose in overtime, but clearly, Rodgers doesn't have the ability to mount a comeback drive as time is expiring.

Atlanta: Down 7 with enough time for a drive, Rodgers once again leads his team down for the game tying 1 yard QB sneak with under a minute left. Clearly, it is Aaron Rodgers' fault that the special teams allowed the Falcons offense to start at midfield and kick the game winning field goal as the clock expired.

As you can clearly see, Rodgers does not have what it takes to come back down by 7 or less in the fourth quarter, and with the game on the line, Rodgers will throw a Favreian game losing interception.

60 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

I agree with your point, but I just wanted to say that the Atlanta game was not tied on a sneak (actually, he lost a fumble on a sneak at the goalline earlier in the game) but rather a 17 yard TD pass on a frozen rope to Jordy Nelson on 4th down.

62 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Crap you're right, my bad. I was thinking of the Miami play and the fumble... Shoulda double checked before posting what happened three months ago. Can't believe I forgot such a great pass (or I tried wiping out my memory when the special teams blew it)

55 Re: Word of Muth: Super Bowl Big Men

Brilliant, thank you. I esp enjoyed the Heath Miller analysis. For fans, here's a collection of his work on all the running plays in the Jets game.