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Pittsburgh's defense must get to Packers' Aaron Rodgers early and often

The quarterback won't have the ball in his hands long, and the Steelers can't sit back and let him pick them apart. They will also have to figure out ways to get defenders loose in the backfield.

January 26, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Pittsburgh's defense will have to put pressure on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers if the Steelers want to win Super Bowl XLV.
Pittsburgh's defense will have to put pressure on Green Bay quarterback… (Dennis Wierzbicki / U.S.…)

What the Pittsburgh Steelers defense must do to stop the Green Bay Packers offense in the Super Bowl (Feb. 6, 3:30 p.m. PST, Ch. 11):

Think fast

The Steelers need to disrupt Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, even though they won't have much time to get to him. The Packers aren't likely to press the issue when it comes to running the ball against the league's No. 2 rushing defense. They're going to throw screens and quick slants instead, and that means Rodgers won't have the ball in his hands long.

Rodgers has had a problem with concussions, and the Steelers are going to try to knock him around as much as they can. They can't sit back and let him pick them apart.

Play five on five

For the most part, Pittsburgh is going to rush five players and drop six into coverage. That means there will be as many blockers as pass rushers, and the Steelers will need to figure ways to get defenders loose in the backfield. Even if they don't sack Rodgers, they need to hurry him.

Get creative

Surprising the Packers will be especially difficult, because Pittsburgh and Green Bay have such similar defensive philosophies. How much mystery could there be? After all, Green Bay's Dom Capers used to be the Steelers' defensive coordinator, and Dick LeBeau — Pittsburgh's current defensive coordinator — was Capers' secondary coach.

Match speed with speed

When these teams faced each other last season, Green Bay receiver Greg Jenning's lined up in the slot and was covered by Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Rodgers spotted the mismatch and got the ball to Jennings, who hit the seam and scored an 83-yard touchdown. The Steelers have to be careful when they switch personnel groups on the fly to make sure there is no disparity.

Rookie move

It could be a long game for Green Bay's offensive tackles if outside linebackers James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley get rolling. A particular matchup to watch is the disruptive Woodley against Packers rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga. If the Packers don't double-team on the outside, and they usually don't, the Steelers must take advantage on the edges and shrink the pocket on Rodgers.

Big-play Troy

The Steelers would love to get a big play out of All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. There's a good chance he'll spend a lot of time in coverage — as opposed to lurking around the line of scrimmage — because the Packers are going to try to spread the Steelers with multiple-receiver sets. But look for the Steelers to blitz him off of disguised man-to-man coverage to get the safety loose.

Another view

NBC's Cris Collinsworth: "Pittsburgh is going to come try to pound the heck out of Aaron Rodgers. He will have two-second reads in this game. He will have times that if he doesn't throw the ball in two seconds it will be a sack fumble."

NEXT: Packers defense

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