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Super bowl matchup
 

Steelers, Packers have set gold standard

The matchup for Super Bowl XLV serves as a map to the history of the game. The Packers and Steelers have combined for nine Super Bowl titles, with Green Bay winning three and Pittsburgh owning a league-high six Lombardi Trophies. The Steelers return to the game after winning two of the past five Super Bowls. While Ben Roethlisberger looks to join a select few who have won at least three rings, Aaron Rodgers is in search of his first and leads the Packers into the Super Bowl for the first time since they went back-to-back in the 1996 and 1997 seasons.

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OFFENSE: Ben Roethlisberger has some new weapons since the last time he went to the Super Bowl. Mike Wallace heads a group of young receivers that gives the passing game a vertical element. Hines Ward is still making tough catches over the middle of the field. Rashard Mendenhall provides the ground game with punch behind a line that has struggled to stay healthy.

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DEFENSE: The dynamic unit produced big play after big play. The Steelers finished second in the league at 276.8 yards allowed per game, gave up the fewest rushing yards, had the most sacks with 48 and also picked off 21 passes. Fifteen different players registered at least one sack in coordinator Dick LeBeau's pressure scheme.

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SPECIAL TEAMS: The Steelers were forced to make a change at kicker during the season, cutting ties with veteran Jeff Reed and opting for Shaun Suisham, who hit 14 of 15 tries after coming to Pittsburgh. When punter Daniel Sepulveda went on IR he was capably replaced by Jeremy Kapinos. Pittsburgh ranked 13th in kickoff returns and last in punt returns.

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OFFENSE: Aaron Rodgers is the main reason the Packers won three road games to advance to Super Bowl XLV, but the running game has gotten a late-season boost from rookie James Starks, who has added balance, rushing for 263 yards in the three playoff wins. The receiving corps, led by Greg Jennings (76 catches, 1,265 yards, 12 TDs), had four players with 45 or more catches.

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DEFENSE: Dom Capers' defense produced across the board, ranking fifth in total yards allowed and second in interceptions (24), sacks (47) and TDs (4). LB Clay Matthews sets the tone in Green Bay's 3-4 pressure scheme. The secondary has three Pro Bowl players in cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon William and safety Nick Collins.

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SPECIAL TEAMS: Mason Crosby has converted on 11 of his last 13 FG attempts, but the Packers better hope the Super Bowl doesn't come down to a field goal try; Crosby is just 1-of-4 in game-winning situations in his career. Rookie punter Tim Masthay was a huge factor in the NFC title game. Green Bay ranked in the bottom third in both kickoff and punt returns.

 

QB Ben Roethlisberger

Beaten and battered, Roethlisberger continued to produce. He went 9-3 after returning from a four-game suspension, and continued to play despite a broken foot and nose. The heart and soul of the offense, Roethlisberger is still capable of making plays with his arm or feet.

LB James Harrison

The former Defensive Player of the Year took a lot of heat for helmet-to-helmet hits, but still managed to reach double-digit sacks for a third straight year. The Steelers are all about being more physical than their opponent and no one exudes that more than Harrison.

S Troy Polamalu

The Steelers are 17-4 with Polamalu on the field over the past two seasons and 6-7 without him. That speaks to the type of production he provides (seven interceptions) as well as the level of leadership he brings. He battled an Achilles' tendon injury late in the season, but two weeks to rest should help.

QB Aaron Rodgers

Out of the shadow of Brett Favre, Rodgers is carving out a legacy of his own. In his sixth season (the same one Favre went to his first Super Bowl), Rodgers is in the midst of one of the greatest QB runs of all time, throwing for more than 2,700 yards, 22 TDs and just four INTs since Week 9.

LB Clay Matthews

In only his second season, Matthews is a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He finished with 13.5 sacks on the season, and has added 3.5 in the playoffs, giving him four career postseason sacks; only Reggie White, with eight, has more in Packers history.

CB Tramon Williams

Five years ago, Williams was an undrafted free agent who was cut by the Texans. Now he's one of the top cover corners in the NFL whose presence allows Dom Capers to be creative. Williams led the Packers with six picks in the regular season and he's added three more in the playoffs.

 
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    Week 1: Injury bug bites Packers

    Starting RB Ryan Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury. With Grant, a dual-threat, out, Green Bay spent most of its season in search of a running game. Grant was the first of 10 regulars to be placed on IR, but it helped the Packers gain momentum late in the season as young replacements gained experience.

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    Week 1: Steelers start fast without Big Ben

    With Ben Roethlisberger suspended, Pittsburgh proved doubters wrong by opening the season with a win against Atlanta. And they did it with Dennis Dixon as their starter. After Dixon got hurt, veteran Charlie Batch took over as the starter until Big Ben returned after the bye in Week 6 with the team at 3-1.

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    Week 11: Steelers rebound against Raiders

    Beating Oakland was significant for several reasons. One, the Steelers bounced back strong from a home loss to New England. Two, they began a four-game winning streak. Three, Roethlisberger was decked by Raiders DL Richard Seymour as the QB celebrated a touchdown pass. He got back up and finished the game.

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    Week 13: Pittsburgh takes control of AFC North

    Roethlisberger inspired the Steelers after missing the first meeting. His teammates drew strength from watching him hobble on a broken foot and witnessed him keep going despite suffering a broken nose after being hit by Ravens DT Haloti Ngata. Pittsburgh gained sole possession of first place with the victory.

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    Week 15: Flynn inspires Packer teammates in loss

    After QB Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of a 7-3 loss to Detroit with a concussion, Green Bay fell 31-27 at New England with Rodgers forced to sit. However, backup Matt Flynn's gutsy effort vs. the Pats spurred on teammates despite dropping perilously close to being out of the playoff picture at 8-6. The Packers haven't lost since.

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    Week 17: Win gives Green Bay playoff spot

    The Packers faced a must-win game to get into the playoffs. The Bears opted to play their starters despite having clinched the NFC North title. The game was a brutal, defensive slugfest that Green Bay won 10-3 on a late touchdown pass to Donald Lee. That victory opened the door for Green Bay to make serious noise in the playoffs.

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    NFC Wild Card Round: Starks leads way

    That running game that was lacking almost all season was found when rookie James Starks torched the Eagles for 123 yards in a 21-16 victory. Starks ended up starting the rest of the playoff games, and though he didn't eclipse the totals he hit against the Eagles, he provided a much-needed rushing threat.

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    NFC Divisional Round: Rodgers takes down No. 1 seed

    Rodgers came off his first playoff win with a game for the ages in vanquishing Atlanta, the NFC's top seed. He completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and three TDs, and he ran for another. Rodgers wasn't the only star in the game; CB Tramon Williams had two picks, one of which he returned 70 yards for a TD.

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    AFC Divisional Round:: Steelers rally to dispatch rival

    Advancing resulted from a combination of grit on the part of the Steelers, along with a fair amount of good fortune. The Steelers found themselves trailing, 21-7, at halftime, which seemed like an insurmountable lead. But the Ravens then did some imploding of their own, and allowed the Steelers to rally for a 31-24 victory.

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    NFC Championship Game: Defense rises to occasion

    Nose tackle B.J. Raji, whose immense talent and strong play all season started coming to light in Green Bay's playoff run, intercepted Caleb Hanie in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. It was defense, along with special teams (namely punter Tim Masthay) and an injury to Jay Cutler, that keyed the title-game victory.

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    AFC Championship Game: Steelers hold on

    Pittsburgh roared to a 24-0 lead, quickly silencing the brash-talking Jets. However, the Jets scratched their way back to make the game interesting. The Steelers rode a strong running game early, and their defense came through when it had to, stopping New York near the goal line on four straight plays.

 
 
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