When the Pittsburgh Steelers look back on the devastation of the 2009 football season, they should take particular note of this Sunday’s contest with the Green Bay Packers. Commentators, fans and historians may well recall shocking losses to the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns. After five consecutive losses, it may be difficult for anyone to actually see the Packers coming. The NFL does — and so do advertisers. The game has been moved to the national television spotlight (4:15 p.m. broadcast), and if the Steelers are not careful, they could get separated from their egos in embarrassing fashion.
Here are 7 simple reasons the Steelers could be in real trouble on Sunday:
- Aaron Rodgers. The Steelers have to get pressure on Rodgers to stop him from throwing the ball all over Heinz Field. Rodgers has been sacked far more than any elite QB in the NFL this season. Before the 8 sack debacle on Lake Erie last week, Rodgers had been sacked 33% more than Ben Roethlisberger. The Vikings enjoy a 2-0 season series advantage over the Packers precisely because they were able to pressure Rodgers. On the season, Green Bay’s QB is 291-444 for 3,579 yards. He has 25 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions.
- Packer Defense. The Packers are second in overall defense, 9th in points allowed and first in takeaway/giveaway differential. This defense is led by former Steelers defensive coordinator (’92-’94) Dom Capers and they are running a 3-4 defense featuring two young, fast outside linebackers. Kevin Greene is on the staff and probably influenced the hair style of USC rookie Clay Matthews. Does any of this sound familiar?
- Charles Woodson. The former Michigan standout and Heisman winner is doing it again. He had 8 interceptions, two sacks and four forced fumbles. He is in the middle of everything that happens for the Packer defense. He is becoming a trendy pick for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Just because he has become popular doesn’t mean he is not worthy. Woodson is making plays and providing leadership on and off the field.
- Jermichael Finley. The Steelers have often had trouble covering talented tight ends deep down the field (or even in short spaces). Finley smoked the Baltimore Ravens for 79 yards on 7 catches, including two touchdowns. He was also instrumental in the Packers win over the Bears. This isn’t a good matchup for James Farrior or Keyaron Fox.
- Jordy Nelson. The second-year player out of Kansas State was drafted by the Packers in the 2nd round (36th overall — before DeSean Jackson, Eddie Royal, Limas Sweed and Mario Manningham). Nelson hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup of Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. James Jones is also in the fold. Nelson, however, has done a credible job returning kicks, and at 6’3″, 215 pounds, he’s going to be tough to bring down.
- B.J. Raji vs. Justin Hartwig and Trai Essex. The rookie nose tackle weighed in at 337 during the summer. He may be playing higher or lower than that right now, but he’s having his way with opposing centers and guard combinations. Justin Hartwig is going to have a long game. Chris Kemoeatu will be fine when he pulls to the right side on blocks — but only if Hartwig isn’t three yards in the backfield. If Rashard Mendenhall is able to get going, it probably won’t be on runs that require Hartwig and Essex to hold the line.
- Deja Vu All Over Again.
- Charles Woodson is Rod Woodson.
- B.J. Raji is Joel Steed.
- Nick Barnett is Hardy Nickerson.
- Clay Matthews is Kevin Greene.
- Aaron Kampman is Greg Lloyd.
- Al Harris is Carnell Lake.
- Brad Jones is Chad Brown.
This is not going to be a fun game. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — only, this isn’t imitation…it’s replication because the architects (Capers, Greene) were in Pittsburgh in the early 1990’s. If the Steelers aren’t very careful, they could catch a beat down at home because someone else had jumped inside their time machine. If I were them, I’d skip the tape of this Packer defense and get a long, good look at those old Steelers video.
I know…there is only ONE Greg Lloyd…one Rod Woodson, etc. The thing is, these Packers don’t have to be the genuine article to beat these Steelers…and what could be worse than getting thrashed at home by your mirror image?
— And check out the INT at the 6:22 mark.