FanPost

Inside the Chessmatch

This is perhaps the most fascinating Superbowl matchup ever. The symmetries amongst the Steelers and Packers are uncanny, and those mirror images will probably result in a chessmatch of epic proportions. As such, the elements of shrewd gameplanning, disguising formations for the intended play-calls, creating confusion by morphing former formations into different executions, and well-timed game-changing plays that result from implementing such an obfuscating strategy will likely be paramount. The team that is the first one to encounter difficulties will no doubt make "proper" adjustments, but those adjustments need to be anticipated and met with with counter-adjustments which should be planned for in advance.

Both teams have great quarterbacks, subpar offensive lines, multiple excellent wide receivers, and punishing 3-4 defenses. The Steelers have the better runningback and tight end, and the Packers have the better secondary, but the similarities dominate the differences.

It is especially key that the Steelers Defense is able to execute well initially. Aaron Rogers is an elite quarterback with superior field vision and accuracy. If things break well for him initially, he has the potential to mercilessly shred any secondary, as he has displayed previously that when his confidence increases, his throws become lethally accurate. However, if he can't achieve that comfort level, he becomes pretty average. He also has a difficult time recapturing the magic once things get shaky.

As great as the Steelers D is, it is well known that we have difficulties with spread offenses and quick thinking/throwing quarterbacks. But recent examples of how the Jets defused the Patriots, and to some extent, how we defused the Jets, points to a clear strategy that can work. Our Defensive line is getting noticeably better, and we should be able to generate significant pressure on a fairly weak Packers O-line. Getting Aaron Smith back should be huge; not only do we get back a premiere player who can disrupt the pocket, but now we have enough quality D-line personnel to rotate people in and keep them fresh enough to create maximal pressure with every play. And we need pressure on every play to disrupt Rodger's comfort zone.

The Packers will try and run occasionally, but we will shut that option down. Since they don't have an effective receiving TE or running game (thus GB will use a lot of multiple WR sets), the Steelers can, with heavy pocket pressure, afford to play more nickel (or possibly use Timmons/Farrior in coverage more than usual if the matchup is right). We should press the CB's forward more than usual and prioritize taking away the open short stuff, so that when Rogers needs to throw earlier than he'd like to because of fierce D-line/Harrison/Woodley pressure, he won't be able to complete passes with ease. Troy needs to play the role he has been playing recently, which is to firstly support the pass defense, especially if the CB's play more agressive on the Packers WR's. If Rodgers makes a mistake, Troy, with the best hands in the secondary, will be in position to make an interception. Then change it up in the 4th quarter and blitz Troy at the right time. Essentially, we need to employ a defensive scheme that will negate the Packers from getting a lead early, because priority number one is to keep Aaron Rogers off his game. I think LeBeau will figure out how to do it.

The Steelers offense will be facing a Packers D that is effective at limiting both the pass and the run, and they can bring pressure up the middle. But Ben is an entirely different kind of quarterback, and our weakness at O-line can be negated by having Ben roll out and buy time for his receivers, which is his forte. Even if he finds it tough sledding, his grit is unflappable, and if we are in the game he will be at his best when we need it the most.

As Green Bay's run D is stout, I believe we should initially pass to set up the run, and parlay any running success with play-action to set up the pass. As a 2-dimensional offense we should use it to our advantage by being unpredictable with the play-calling, and run plays that aren't expected from the sets we show. Ben should be given the authority to audible plays based on what the Packers D flashes; they aren't as good as us at disguise, and Ben should often be able to recognize their telegraph and take advantage of it by changing the play at the line of scrimmage when he sees an opportunity. We should design plays to let Clay Matthews over-pursue and throw screen passes to Mendenhall on that side, and let Hines and his new blocking disciples lay some pancakes. The Pack secondary is good, but their linebackers (while great in their own regard, especially at stopping the run) are not as good in coverage. Heath Miller should be a mismatch there and should be utilized to take advantage of it. We now have 4 bona fide clutch receivers that Ben feels comfortable throwing to, and I don't think the Pack can cover them all. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown need to come up big, they will be needed. From what it is I have seen from them so far, I expect them to do exactly that.

It's gonna be one for the ages, but I think in the end the Steelers D is the superior one, and will deliver Checkmate.

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