More Steelers-Packers Previewin’: JJ at FanHouse

JJ has been a busy little beaver over at FanHouse this week, and understandably so: the Steelers are in the Super Bowl. We’ll hit the highlights here (and update this post as JJ’s work goes up there)…

Analyzing the Packers’ Offensive Line
“There is one significant downside of the Packers’ run-game struggles. In rewatching the Jets game, there were multiple plays where Green Bay tried to run a play-action bootleg for Rodgers. But because of the lack of an effective running game, the unblocked outside linebacker ignored the play action and made a direct line for Rodgers, forcing Rodgers to throw the ball away.

It will be interesting to watch how center Scott Wells handles Casey Hampton. Wells appears to be much more comfortable when he is uncovered. Against 4-3 defenses, Wells usually is asked to block linebackers on running plays, a job he does quite well. But against a 3-4 defense, Wells is much less comfortable trying to get low and manhandle a nose tackle.” [keep readin']

Which Steelers Defensive Backs Can Be Picked on?
“To get a better idea of where the weak links are among the Steelers’ defensive backs, I went back and re-watched every passing touchdown Pittsburgh allowed this year. There aren’t that many — only 15 during the regular season (third best in the league) and 17 including the playoffs.

The two guys who were most victimized were the two cornerbacks you would expect — William Gay and Bryant McFadden. Gay had a rough stretch at midseason when he gave up four touchdowns in two games, but since then he has settled down. Of Gay’s six touchdowns allowed, four came when the undersized Gay faced a physical mismatch against either a tight end (Rob Gronkowski) or a big wide receiver (Terrell Owens).” [keep readin']

Pay No Attention to BJ Raji-Doug Legursky Matchup Hype
“Raji has amazing stamina for a big man. In the Bears’ game, Raji was on the field for 61 of 65 snaps. But on only 11 of those was he lined up heads-up on the center. Even that doesn’t tell the full story. Because of how the Bears blocked and how Raji fired off, Chicago center Olin Kreutz was only responsible for blocking Raji on seven plays.” [keep readin']

Where Are Green Bay’s DBs Vulnerable?
“The other, and more significant observation, was that the Packers are more vulnerable to tight ends over the middle than receivers hugging the sideline. That may be in part because while the Packers have excellent speed on the outside, their safeties are not as strong, especially at strong safety with Charlie Peprah.

Seven of the 19 touchdowns the Packers have allowed this year have been to tight ends. Two of those came when teams timed tight-end screens perfectly — running them to the side that the Packers’ blitzed from. In both Antthony Fasano catch and run in Week 7 and Will Heller’s similar play in Week 12, the tight end had an easy time after simply turning around and catching a short pass–there were way more blockers in front of them than defenders.” [keep readin']

Breaking Down Steelers’ O-Line
“If there is a piece of good news for the Steelers, it’s that the Packers rely on massive defensive linemen for much of their pass rush. Clay Matthews is a matchup nightmare for Pittsburgh as neither Adams or Scott has the foot speed to handle his speed rushes off the edge — for that matter Max Starks couldn’t handle him in 2009 either. But Raji and Cullen Jenkins are the Packers’ next two leading sackers. Pittsburgh’s tackles, especially Adams, would prefer to face brawn than speed.” [keep readin']

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  • DC in ATL

    Excellent articles.

    If Hampton can collapse the pocket like I think he can, that will go a long way to disrupting their passing game. The Packers were only 2-3 against 3-4 defenses this year, and I think we’re easily the best 3-4 defense they’ll see all year.

    On the defensive back article, the fact that Ike only gave up two TD’s all year (including the playoffs) makes one wonder why he wasn’t under consideration for the Pro Bowl. Would love to see him shut Jennings down. And it sounds like Gay needs to be covering their smaller guys, not their Tight Ends.

    • Randy Steele

      Remember, too, the Packers performance against the Lions in their dome home.

      The Pack lost that game, 7-3. Why? The Lions were one of the few teams the Packers have faced this year who could bring pressure on the QB from their outside linemen. Whenever the Packers have confronted a vicious pass rush this year, they’ve wilted.

  • Jason F

    Well, there is a report that the Packers are planning to exploit the Raji-Bronco matchup. Take it for what its worth. http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/41430220/sports/player_news

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Great stuff, JJ. Among the best I’ve read in the last two weeks.

  • Mike L

    One major question is can a team produce if they only run or pass? Certainly when a team know the opponent is going to pass such as a 3rd and long situation, they attack differently. My understanding is that more interceptions and sacks occur in 3rd and long situations. Is it not better to keep your opponent guessing on the playcalling? I remember the superbowl in 95′, the Steelers were doing very well in the 4 and 5 wide sets until Ernie Mills was injured. Then two miscommunications and the Cowboys had two picks. The Steelers lost only one of two Superbowls where the loser had more yardage. One good hits across the middle by a LB and the loss of a WR could doom the Packers. I was just looking for some numbers in this regard? Don’t most teams that pass 50 times lose?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    Random, non-Steeler link. This would make Media Day much more interesting:

    http://www.sportspickle.com/opinion/4989/if-the-players-got-to-ask-the-super-bowl-media-day-questions

  • Randy Steele

    Question of the Day: If the Jets had won the AFC, do you think that all those nattering nabobs in the media would be picking the Packers to win the Super Bowl?

    (I sure don’t.)

  • Anonymous

    JJ, anything to say about this Dorian Brooks fella? Sounds like he’ll get a hat?

    • JJ Cooper

      He can snap, which is apparently may be the key prerequisite for being on the active roster. Lets be honest, it’s not like Tony Hills has done anything to really deserve a helmet, so it’s not like this is a big dropoff. Brooks has practiced with the team all year, has good athleticism and has a chance to be another Doug Legursky type who eventually makes the team coming out of training camp. But it is worth remembering that he had seven snaps in the preseason (at least as best I can tell from my notes). The Steelers didn’t want to play him much because they wanted to get him onto the practice squad, but it’s hard to imagine a guy going from seven preseason snaps to playing in the Super Bowl. Hopefully Legursky stays healthy. If not, I imagine the Steelers would think hard about putting Trai Essex in to replace him.

  • Anonymous

    JJ’s analysis of the cornerback makes me feel better than I had. Both gay and McFadden seem to have been |OK the last two months. At least on TD passes.