Last week I pointed out how the key matchup when the Packers have the ball will be the play of Bryan Bulaga against whoever the Steelers line up over him (probably Lamar Woodley for the majority of the time). The rookie out of Iowa doesn’t need to play dominant football. He just needs to stay assignment-sure and not let the Steelers get anything cheap.
Because if Aaron Rodgers and the Packers receivers can get the three or four seconds they need, Rodgers will tear the Steelers secondary apart. There are plays to be made everywhere against this secondary and the biggest plays have come over the deep middle – an area of the field that has given the Packers defense problems as well since switching to Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense.
Where the Packers have the advantage here is the ability of their receivers to make plays after the catch. Take a look at Donald Driver last year turning a decent gain into a huge play:
Now, obviously, the absence of Troy Polamalu on this play is noticeable. But going back over the 2010 playoff games against the Ravens and the Jets, you can see those plays are still there to be made. The Ravens and especially the Jets in the first half, simply couldn’t get the quarterback protected.
McCarthy will spread things out on the carpet in Dallas, I have no doubt, leaving his tackles to win their one on one matchups. The Steelers seem to be hoping the Packers do this. Steelers assistant head coach John Mitchell had this to say earlier in the week:
Green Bay’s going to do what got them here. They throw the ball a lot. They sprinkle in the run. But their quarterback likes to throw the ball downfield. We like to bring pressure, so we’re going to bring pressure. Let him throw it. We’ll see how far he can throw it downfield. We’re going to see how quick we can get to him. It’s going to be simple.
They’re going to put five wides out there. A lot of people ask me, ‘Are you going to take (nose tackle) Casey Hampton off the field?’ No, we’re not going to take Casey off the field. We’re going to leave him out there. If they’re going to try to get Casey off the field, where they don’t want to run the ball, it’s going to be a big mistake.
We feel like we can stop the run and make them throw. If he’s going to throw 50 times, make him throw 60 times. We feel like our chances of getting to him will be pretty good. The more he throws it, the more chances he’s going to take.
We’re not going to change one thing. That’s all I’ve been hearing: ‘They’re going to run the spread. They’re going to have this many receivers.’ I hope they do.
If the Packers do half as good a job handling the Steelers pressure as they did the last time these two teams met, get ready to watch Mark Murphy, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy being presented with the Lombardi Trophy.