Placing any friendly (or perhaps just financially-friendly) bets on Super Bowl XLV? What about the office pool? If so, you may be pulling your hair out trying to figure out which team will win. Will the Pittsburgh Steelers or Green Bay Packers reign victorious? Fortunately, you don’t have to decide the winner alone. Let the AFRO Sports Desk’s Perry Green (PG) and Stephen D. Riley (SDR) do the hard work for you.

SDR: The Steelers will arrive at Super Bowl XLV as the more experienced championship team. But that might not matter against a hot Green Bay Packers squad. The Packers trump the Steelers in several areas, most notably at the offensive line, wide receiver, secondary and special teams positions. Pittsburgh might have the edge at quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger, but Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has emerged as one of the best signal-callers in the league. Simply put, the Packers hold the edge over the Steelers in talent and for one game, I’ll go with the team who packs the most punch.

PG: I cannot deny the superior talent of the Green Bay Packers, perhaps the most all-around explosive team in the NFL. But as far as packing a greater punch than the Pittsburgh Steelers, no way. In fact, it’s not even close.

The Steelers are by far the toughest team in the league on both sides of the ball. Pittsburgh’s legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will send line-stuffers like Casey Hampton and Ziggy Hood to beat down your running game, while Troy Polamalu and James Harrison take turns sacking your favorite quarterback. And when you try to return the favor against their offense, you realize 250-pound quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is about as easy to sack as a female Grizzy bear in heat.

You punch the Steelers in the mouth and they laugh while licking the blood off their lip. They punch you in the mouth and you fall down: Game Over! And that’s why they’ll beat Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV.

SDR: The best way to beat brawn is with brain. If you look at three of the Steelers’ four losses this season—not counting their early season loss to the Baltimore Ravens without Roethlisberger—each team that beat them was extremely well coached. New England, New Orleans and the New York Jets all shared something in common besides the “new” in their name: they all had dynamic coaches who warned their teams about the Steelers’ toughness and countered it with genius game plans. The Packers’ two main coaches, head coach/offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers, are two of the best in the NFL at what they do. Capers installed the Steelers’ 3-4 defensive system as the coordinator in the early 90’s, so he knows the defense inside and out. McCarthy is one of the brightest offensive minds in the league and has guided a laundry list of quarterbacks to their finest seasons. Both men have the smarts and talent at the helm to outsmart the Steelers’ “toughness.”

PG: No doubt, Green Bay is a very well coached unit. But so are the Steelers. You don’t reach the championship stage without great coaching. Both coaching staffs will use this week to come up with the most effective game plans imaginable, but at kickoff it’s up to the players to execute under pressure. And while most of the Steelers’ roster has experienced this type pressure before, only one player for the Packers, all-pro cornerback Charles Woodson, can say the same. Woodson was featured in Super Bowl XXXVI for the Oakland Raiders, but they were blasted by a strong, defensive-minded Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Steelers’ top-ranked defense should have similar success against the Packers, who showed weaknesses offensively against the Chicago Bears’ defense in the NFC Championship. Pittsburgh doesn’t allow many points. They’ll keep the score tight and wait for the fourth quarter, and no one is better than Roethlisberger in the final moments of a game. He has two Super Bowl rings to prove it.

SDR: Roethlisberger may have two title rings but neither he nor the Steelers have faced an opponent like this in their modern Super Bowl era. Green Bay has the two things that historically give Pittsburgh problems: a confusing defense and an attacking quarterback. Keep in mind that the Steelers will likely be without center Maurkice Pouncey, which could pose a world of problems with Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji emerging as a top talent. The Steelers have gotten by with a makeshift offensive line for most of the season, but Pouncey was always there to even things out. This will most likely be their first full game without him and a team can only go so far with a bunch of castoffs blocking up front. Pittsburgh held on to stop the Jets two weeks ago, but their offense was shutout in the second half once New York adjusted defensively. Sure, Green Bay struggled offensively against Chicago but most offenses will struggle when operating in freezing temperatures with blasting winds. With Dallas’ warmth and a fast-track turf now to Rodgers and the Packers’ advantage, they will have an edge over a dinged-up Steelers’ secondary and allow their defense to run through a patchwork Steelers’ offensive line.

PG: Dinged up or not, there is a reason Pittsburgh is making their third trip to the Super Bowl in six years. They simply find ways to win big games, and it never seems to matter how good their opponents are. In 2005, the Steelers overcame the Seattle Seahawks’ top-ranked offense with their less-talented roster to win Super Bowl XL. They won Super Bowl XLII the same way, by outperforming the Arizona Cardinals’ star-studded offense. It may not be pretty, or perfect, but Pittsburgh finds a way to beat you. They found a way against the more talented Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets earlier in January. I’m willing to bet the house they’ll find a way to their seventh Super Bowl title, the most by any franchise in league history.


Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk