Pregame Zone Blitz: Us Against The World

PHILADELPHIA PA - JANUARY 09: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after a sack against the Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9 2011 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With all the hype starting to die down, it's time for PZB to think nostalgically over its second season with the greatest Steelers fan community on Planet Earth.

Ok, reflection done. Let's get into the game.

We've got some fiery rhetoric, enhanced with huge chips on our shoulders. We've got a Packers player who could present a problem to Pittsburgh, but a few ideas on how to stop him. And this is only Part I. Pass out the ammunition, crank your iPod to your favorite pre-game tunes and let's get into the nuts and bolts of this game.

Us Against The World

How utterly ridiculous is it that James Harrison makes a football act and gets fined $75,000, and Richard Seymour, despite whatever happened to provoke him, slugs a player on national TV in full view of the cameras and knocks him to the ground -- and gets fined $25,000. Weak. Very weak.

Peter King

The last piece of "Us Against The World" evidence was hotly contested. So many factors to consider, in this, the Superest of weeks.

Two Super Bowl championships since 2005, never once having been the No. 1 seed out of the AFC. Never once having the league's MVP on its roster. Having as many undrafted All Pro players as drafted ones (two in total). Yet, Pittsburgh's opponent has the better personnel strategy.

The Steelers have one one player who was fined for more dollars than the entire roster of its Super Bowl opponent. While its opponent is making headlines because the delicate senses of its injured players are being brought to attention by the wonderful medium of Twitter, the Steelers still defend themselves against accusations they are a dirty team.

How about the coach who failed to win a playoff game (again) and had the league MVP at his disposal for 16 games wins Coach of the Year in a landslide (which PZB thinks is a good choice, perhaps not by that margin of victory though), but the coach who was without his quarterback for four games, was forced to reconfigure his entire offensive line each game, was coming off a disastrous 9-7 season and was forced to reinvent their running game despite all these obstacles didn't receive even one vote.

Not. One. Bleeping. Vote. For Mike Tomlin as the NFL's Coach of the Year.

We're ending this mix CD of hate extended toward the Steelers with this medley of disrespect.

NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, when speaking to one of the most tenured media figures in all of the NFL (SI's Peter King), gave an interview, which was written in a fashion that leads all to believe Goodell interviewed Steelers players in regards to the allegations against Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. King ran the quote as this: "Regarding Roethlisberger, Goodell said when he was investigating what to do with the quarterback, he talked to "I bet two dozen (Steelers) players ... Not one, not a single player, went to his defense. It wasn't personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, 'He won't sign my jersey.' ''

King later retracted the statement, removing the parenthetical reference to the Steelers, which indicated Goodell had interviewed two dozen Steelers players about Roethlisberger.

PZB isn't sure if that's any better. Who did he ask, Ravens players? Patriots players? Guys with a lot to gain by Roethlisberger potentially being sat down for an entire season?

Perhaps the fact so many players allegedly weren't coming to his defense is part of the reason why Roethlisberger, by all accounts, has cleaned up his image. He's not surrounded by leeches and sycophants.

Kudos to King for running the retraction, and I'm not claiming conspiracy here, but the fact is Goodell led a savvy media member, a guy who's been interviewing people for decades, to believe he interviewed Steelers players. King inserted the parenthetical because King felt it was obvious Goodell was talking about Steelers players. King's been conducting interviews far longer than Goodell's been giving them.

All this really does is bring up a key question; Why is he bringing this up now? Granted, Roethlisberger is in the Super Bowl spotlight once again, so the timing is there, but he's again defending his decision suspend him for six games, eventually reducing it to four games.

Maybe King should have asked Goodell who he's more proud of, Michael Vick or Roethlisberger.

Wait, we know the answer to that already.  

Either way, we appreciate Mr. Goodell reinforcing the "Us Against The World" mentality once again, especially since it's the last time this season we'll get it.

Oh, And the Steelers are still 2.5 point dogs to their opponent.

Opponent Spotlight: OLB Clay Matthews

Matthews lost out to Polamalu for Defensive Player of the Year by a hair. That's the one and only hair joke PZB will make.

Still, the impact both of these players have had on their teams is dramatic. Under the tutelage of former Steelers LB Kevin Greene, Matthews has 23.5 sacks in his first two years in the league, two of those coming against the Steelers last season.

Steelers fans may remember that game; it's the one where Matthews lived on Pittsburgh's side of the line of scrimmage. The Steelers still managed to throw for 500 yards, but no one walked away from that game thinking they didn't lose at least one individual battle.

The bad news is he's become more versatile this season. Matthews attacks from multiple points on the defense, and is the most successful when he stunts to the inside.

The advantage he gets in being lined up on the defensive left side of the field is he's facing the opposition's right tackle, not the typically stronger pass blocking left tackle. That makes it more difficult for opponents to switch the strength of the line by using motion. Matthews has the speed to run plays down from the weak side, but doesn't seem as strong when faced straight up with a tackle on running plays.

The Steelers have LaMarr Woodley in their LOLB position, and Woodley dominates against the run, moreso than Matthews. But with the fast track in Dallas, and two quarterbacks who both excel indoors, a strong pass rush could be the ultimate deciding factor in a game many are predicting to be a high-scoring affair.

Steelers RT Jonathan Scott will get help from TEs Heath Miller and Matth Spaeth, but look for the Steelers to try to isolate Matthews away from the play as much as possible. Considering the Packers as a team finished second in sacks in the NFL (behind Pittsburgh), they can't focus solely on Matthews, as Green Bay can apply pressure from anywhere. They will want to get Matthews playing in space as much as possible, and not give him the inside stunts from which he's caused so much damage this year.

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