Keys to winning Super Bowl XLV in Dallas

X's and O's, breakdowns, plus my Sunday prediction. Matt Bowen

Print This February 04, 2011, 05:30 AM EST

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Let’s breakdown three keys to winning Super Bowl XLV for both the Packers and the Steelers. X’s and O’s, schemes, along with my prediction of who will we holding up the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night in Dallas.

Green Bay

Aaron RodgersICONRodgers will have opportunities to test the Steelers' coverage schemes.

1. Attack the Steelers’ coverage schemes: One thing we often overlook when we talk about pressure defenses are the coverage aspects we will see in certain passing situations. Versus Dick LeBeau’s unit, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense can expect to see the Steelers play some 2-Man (2 deep safeties with underneath man coverage). How do you beat it? Work the middle of the field—just as Green Bay did at Pittsburgh in the 2009 season. Get your playmakers (Jennings, Nelson) aligned as the No.3 receiver and split the deep half safeties with inside vertical route schemes. I would play 2-Man if I was coaching vs. Green Bay, but it does have holes that can be exploited. Make the throw when you have the opportunity vs. Pittsburgh.

Click here to see the chalkboard and video breakdown of Rodgers to Jennings vs. the Steelers’ 2-Man coverage last season.

2. Keep Roethlisberger in the pocket: Easy to say (and something we will hear often leading up to kickoff), but if you allow the Steelers’ QB to escape pressure the stress then falls on the secondary. Pittsburgh’s receivers will convert routes vertically up the field, break back to the football and find ways to work away from defenders in open space. All of this happens because there isn’t a quarterback in football that can extend the play like we see from Roethlisberger. The Packers have to rush with contain principles and force the Steelers’ QB to step up into pressure. He is at his best when the play breaks down. A tough QB to game plan for.

3. Move Woodson: I spent some time this week writing about Pittsburgh strong safety Troy Polamalu and how he is used creatively from both a pre-snap alignment and in the multiple looks from that defensive unit. . And we can apply that same discussion to Woodson. The ability for Dom Capers to use him in coverage outside of the numbers, over the slot and as a “rover” in the box (along with his edge pressure) will be a key for the Green Bay defense. Put him a position to be disruptive, take away offensive play makers (think Hines Ward in the slot and bunch formations) and give him some freedom within the scheme of the defense.


1. Manage the Packers’ empty looks: Green Bay will spread the field on offense in their empty sets (no backs) out of multiple personnel groupings that gives Rodgers a five WR look. The Packers will do this to counter pressure from the Steelers’ defense and use quick, combination route schemes that provide the QB with high percentage throws. From an X’s and O’s standpoint, how does Pittsburgh respond? In most situations throughout my career, we would check out of pressure when the offense aligned in empty. Something to keep an eye on, because this could provide Rodgers with an opportunity to work the middle of the field. Pittsburgh has to game plan and adjust to the Packers’ spread look.

Rashard Mendenhall ICONThe Steelers need production from running back Rashard Mendenhall.

2. Production from Mendenhall: Has to be there. The Steelers can run on this Packers’ defense if Mendenhall shows that burst to the line of scrimmage that we saw vs. the Jets in the AFC Championship game. Don’t be surprised to see the Steelers test the edge of the Packers’ defense early on Sunday and try to establish Mendenhall as a feature player in the game plan. That leads to play action and the ability for Roethlisberger to work TE Heath Miller and WR Hines Ward on inside breaking concepts over the top of the Green Bay linebackers. Bottom line: put together scoring drives that wear down the Packers’ front seven and open up your playbook from an offensive perspective.

3. Force turnovers: Got to have the big name players around the football. Polamalu, Harrison, Woodley, Ryan Clark, etc. We know that the Steelers will use some overload zone pressure, plus play some Cover 0(no safety help), and that needs to translate into turnovers. Field position in a championship is crucial—and this defense can set up the offense with a short field to work with. But that only happens if you get the ball out and take some risk with your secondary play by stealing some routes.

Super Bowl XLV prediction…

If I had to pick one quarterback to coach in the pressure situation of the Super Bowl stage, I am taking Roethlisberger. His ability to make plays in critical moments of the game—along with the league’s No’1 defense—has me picking the Steelers on Sunday in Dallas. I expect to see one of the best football games of the season and the Pittsburgh QB collecting his third ring.

Steelers 27 Packers 23

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

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