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Packers defense must go in a certain direction

They need to attack Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from his right to take him out of his natural stance, as well as stop the run and guard against deep shot to receiver Mike Wallace.

January 28, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji, left, celebrates with teammate Robert Francois after scoring a touchdown during the Packers' NFC championship victory over Chicago on Sunday.
Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji, left, celebrates with teammate Robert… (John Gress / Reuters )

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

What's right is right

The Packers need to attack Ben Roethlisberger from his right side to push him left. That means the Steelers quarterback will have to throw across his body when he scrambles loose, rather than setting up in a more natural stance and finding his receivers. Roethlisberger is at his most dangerous when the play breaks down and matters are at their most chaotic. No one extends a play as well as he does.

Roethlisberger is so strong that when teams attack him from his left, he's often able to shove would-be tacklers aside and still get the ball out of his hand.

Don't tread on me

Stopping the run is huge for the Packers. They cannot let the Steelers control the clock the way Pittsburgh did against the New York Jets. That means containing Rashard Mendenhall. That should be a bit less daunting because the Steelers are banged up on the offensive line and almost certainly won't have their best such lineman, rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Jets. Never mind all those great zone blitzes and pass-rushing threats. If the Packers can't stop the run, they're doomed.

Deep thoughts

The Packers can expect that Roethlisberger is going to test them early with a deep shot to blazing-fast receiver Mike Wallace. That's what happened when these teams played in 2009 — Pittsburgh threw a go-route to Wallace for a 60-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Depending on the down and distance, the Packers will need to double him.

But don't expect that coverage to always be a cornerback under and a safety over the top. Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers is far less predictable than that. The Packers will mix and match, and disguise. It could be any number of combinations, including a linebacker underneath and a cornerback over the top. Regardless, the Packers need to be especially aware of him.

Charles in charge

Green Bay needs to continue to take advantage of all the playmaking capabilities of big cornerback Charles Woodson. When the Steelers go to three wide receivers, watch for the Packers to move Woodson inside over the slot receiver — typically Hines Ward — which gives the Packers five stand-up players in their 2-4-5 defensive formation (Woodson and the four linebackers).

Bringing Woodson into the tackle box puts him in better position to blitz Roethlisberger, and the Packers corner is so quick it creates a mismatch with any of the Steelers' offensive linemen. Accounting for Woodson in those situations is very difficult.

Another view

Greg Cosell, executive producer of "NFL Matchup": "If the Steelers can't create some continuity with the running game, the Super Bowl will become a Ben Roethlisberger random-improvisational game. He's very good at that, but you can't rely on it, because improv by its very nature is random."

Next: Steelers offense

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