Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’

NFL: Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints

Over the last week, I’ve been working up division by division predictions across the NFL.  But today, on the verge of full-scale NFL action breaking out, it’s time to finish the job and put it all on the line. After all, what are 32 predictions if you don’t run them down to one? So here it is, who’s going to New York City for the Super Bowl, in the order they’d play out via the standings I arrived at. As a bonus, I’ll throw in a few awards for a few guys as well, for good measure.

But before we take it there, here a recap on how it all should shake out:

NFC East                                                           NFC North

  1. Redskins (10-6)                                 1. Packers (11-5)
  2. Cowboys (9-7)                                   2. Bears (10-6)*
  3. Giants (8-8)                                        3. Vikings (7-9)
  4. Eagles (4-12)                                      4. Lions (5-11)

NFC South                                                           NFC West

  1. Falcons (13-3)                                   1. Niners (12-4)
  2. Saints (8-8)                                         2. Seahawks (11-5)*
  3. Buccaneers (6-10)                            3. Rams (7-9)
  4. Panthers (5-11)                                 4. Cardinals (5-11)

AFC East                                                             AFC North

  1. Patriots (11-5)                                   1. Ravens (11-5)
  2. Dolphins (7-9)                                    2. Bengals (10-6)*
  3. Jets (5-11)                                            3. Steelers (10-6)*
  4. Bills (4-12)                                           4. Browns (7-9)

AFC South                                                        AFC West

  1. Houston (11-5)                                 1. Broncos (13-3)
  2. Colts (8-8)                                           2. Chiefs (7-9)
  3. Titans (6-10)                                       3. Chargers (5-11)
  4. Jaguars (2-14)                                    4. Raiders (3-13)

 

WILD CARD ROUND PLAYOFFS

Green Bay Packers over Chicago Bears

Seattle Seahawks over Washington Redskins

Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans over Pittsburgh Steelers

DIVISIONAL ROUND PLAYOFFS

Seattle Seahawks over Atlanta Falcons

San Francisco 49ers over Green Bay Packers

Denver Broncos over Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans over New England Patriots

NFC/AFC CHAMPIONSHIPS

San Francisco 49ers over Seattle Seahawks

Houston Texans over Denver Broncos

 

The MVP from two years back has as much of a load on his shoulders as ever before. And if he delivers on promise for the Pack again, an addition to his trophy case will be well deserved.

The MVP from two years back has as much of a load on his shoulders as ever before. And if he delivers on promise for the Pack again, an addition to his trophy case will be well deserved.

AWARD TOUR

Now before throwing it all on the line with the Super Bowl picks, let me back up and get some award picks for the season. It is impossibly difficult to select an MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive/Offensive Player of the Year before the season begins. So much goes into it, and it can change on a week to week basis. But, it’s Kickoff, so why not.

MVP—Aaron Rodgers: The Packers are leaning on him more than ever, and really, the team just behind him in the North via Chicago is the better overall team. But all things considered, the Pack will still take the North and it should come via a virtuoso performance from the league’s best QB.

Offensive Player of the Year—Peyton Manning: It is going to be a close call over Rodgers, Adrian Peterson and Andrew Luck, but there’s a chance that Peyton pulls off one of the great offensive efforts in league history. He’s got the tools, the right division and a pretty decent head start to do it all. 50-45 touchdowns should be in his sights.

Defensive Player of the Year—Richard Sherman: Doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that the Seahawks will have the best defense in the NFL. And Sherman is not only the ringleader on the microphone, but also the catalyst of the entire attack. QBs have no choice but to challenge him due to the depth of the team around him. And he will make the most of it in some pretty big games.

Offensive Rookie of the Year—Tavon Austin: The impact may not be immediate…but then again maybe it will be. With a home run threat like Austin, there is no telling when or where he may make an impact from for the Rams. And in a style similar to what Percy Harvin did a few years back, Austin could be on par for a huge debut.

Defensive Rookie of the Year—Kenny Vaccaro: The Saints defense will be challenged yet again, but this time they’ll be met by a legitimate threat to bring the ball right back at them. Vaccaro was the perfect addition to a team that needs to keep its pass happy QB schedule honest.

And finally…

SUPER BOWL XLVIII –HOUSTON TEXANS vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers

The Texans have been on the verge for a few years, while the Niners have rapidly reinvented themselves underneath Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick. With both teams touting strong defenses and rushing attacks, it could come down to who can find room to make the big play first. When it comes to that element, the Texans have the biggest threat in Andre Johnson, but the Niners have the most options to find room for one between Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and by that time, Michael Crabtree.

It will be tight and February in New York may not have the best conditions for a highwire act, and that’s where it favors the road options of the Niners with the ball in their hands, as well as the best linebacker group in football getting plenty of shots on Arian Foster and Ben Tate. This favors San Francisco, and it nets them their first Super Bowl since 1994.

The Baltimore Ravens earned their title like few others, because more so than anything else, they made it out of their own neighborhood to do it. The AFC North is annually brutal; look no further than the annual baseball score match ups that take place out of the run-ins between the four clubs. And going into 2013, they surely look to be the best of AFC divisions, if not all of football.

The dynamics of the division are diverse. There are the old warhorses in Pittsburgh, who continue to push ahead with a tough defense and even tougher quarterback. There are the up and comers in Cincinnati, with one of the best young pass and catch combos in the game. In Cleveland there are the perennial rebuilders, which are getting close to the breakthrough that Cincy enjoyed a few years back. And then there are the Super Bowl champions in Baltimore, who are reshaping their image, while still looking stay among the league’s elite.

With so many competitors, the outcome of the division could be as random as it is any, but one thing for certain is that whoever takes, will have earned it.

ALL-DIVISION TEAM

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, RB: Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, WR: AJ Green, Torry Smith, Antonio Brown, TE: Jermaine Gresham, OT: Joe Thomas, Andrew Whitworth, OG: Marshal Yanda, David DeCastro C: Maurkice Pouncey

DE: Elvis Dumervil, Brett Keisel, DT/NT: Haloti Ngata, Geno Atkins, OLB: Terrell Suggs, James Harrison, MLB: D’Qwell Jackson, Lawrence Timmons, CB: Joe Haden, Lardarius Webb, FS: Ryan Clark, SS: Troy Polamalu

 

Flacco delivered the hardware to Baltimore, and they returned the favor by delivering him a check worth $120 million. Now he'll be charged with taking the absolute lead for the team for the first time.

Flacco delivered the hardware to Baltimore, and they returned the favor by delivering him a check worth $120 million. Now he’ll be charged with taking the absolute lead for the team for the first time.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-6 in 2012, Super Bowl Champions)

The Good: While he has just been seen as just another brick in the foundation for the majority of his career, Joe Flacco is perhaps the most important Raven now. In wake of the retirement of Ray Lewis and the departure of Ed Reed, the team’s emphasis will shift to how far the offense can carry them. Flacco is steady under pressure and has become more than just a game manager; he’s capable of creating wins himself. In a season that there has plenty of change and a chance for a Super Bowl hangover, he is the perfect QB for what the team needs now.

The Bad: A lot of leadership and key experience was lost not only in Lewis and Reed, but as a while they lost eight starters overall. That is a lot to adjust from for any team, and it could take some time for new players to gel, as well as for the players stepping up into new positions to find their way. In a division that could be as tight as the North, even a few lost games during development could be detrimental in the big picture.

X-Factor—Ray Rice: It seems odd to think that more could be asked of one of the league’s busiest all-around talents, but this season could see a bigger impact from Rice than ever before. The loss of Dennis Pitta and Boldin will force more of the short yardage gains to come his way, and with an increased emphasis on pounding the ball with Bernard Pierce, will free him to get into space more than ever, which is never a bad thing.

Schedule: @DEN (L), CLE (W), HOU (W), @BUF (W), @MIA (W), GB (W), @PIT (L), @CLE (L), CIN (W), @CHI (W), NYJ (W), PIT (W), MIN (W), @DET (W), NE (W), @CIN (L) 11-5

Prediction: It will be a different type of Ravens team than we’ve ever seen, but that is not a bad thing. They have drafted and maneuvered better than any team in the NFL over the past few seasons, so it should be able to bound back from personnel losses with the easier stride than most teams. Nobody saw them coming a year ago, and while the light will be in their faces from day one this year, they will be able to live up to the expectations, even if they are slightly less than you would think for a defending champion. 11-5

 

Atkins broke out with a 12 sack season a year ago, and is now the centerpiece of a rapidly growing defense that is primed to be a force.

Atkins broke out with a 12 sack season a year ago, and is now the centerpiece of a rapidly growing defense that is primed to be a force.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6 in 2012)

The Good: AJ Green and Andy Dalton get the headlines, but the true strength of Marvin Lewis’ squad is (unsurprisingly) its quick striking defense. With the addition of James Harrison, it boasts one of the best linebacker groups in the game. Upfront, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson combined for 30 sacks a year ago. This is a unit that could be on the verge of making the jump to one of the NFL’s elite groups.

The Bad: Will they bring it all together to get over the hump of youth this time around? While the franchise has turned the corner the past two years with back-to-back playoff appearances, once they have gotten there, they have had their season end in the Wild Card round at the hands of the Texans both years. The mark of if a young team is progressing is learning how to progress over its hump, and they have a clear challenge in that area.

X-Factor—Giovanni Bernard: For as steady as Ben-Jarvis Green Ellis was in his first year in stripes, he truly lives up to his “Law Firm” moniker: straight ahead, to the point, no frills production. In an effort to bring a more diverse and explosive element to the team, the club took Bernard with its second round pick. The former Tar Heel could be an image changer as a pass catcher and open field threat from the backfield.

Schedule: @CHI (W), PIT (W), GB (L), @CLE (W), NE (W), @BUF (L), @DET (W), NYJ (W), @MIA (L), @BAL (L), CLE (W), @SD (W), IND (L), @PIT (L), MIN (W), BAL (W)

Prediction: There are a lot things in the Bengals favor for them to win their first division title since 2009. There’s turnover in the division, they have steadily improved over the past two years and have an impressive stock of complimentary young talent. In the end, another postseason appearance is in the cards, but the grit to pull the division away from Baltimore still seems a year away. First, the Bengals will have to attempt to exorcise their Wild Card round ghost again. 10-6

 

With Thomas watching his back and a new scheme to work in his favor, there could be more to smile about in year two for Brandon Weeden.

With Thomas watching his back and a new scheme to work in his favor, there could be more to smile about in year two for Brandon Weeden.

CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11 in 2012)

The Good: It’s been a vanilla process, but the Browns are forming a solid core on both sides of the ball. Joe Thomas is the best tackle in the business. Brandon Weeden is a secure pocket presence, and both Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon bring a long absent element of excitement to the approach. Defensively, Joe Haden is one of the best cover men in the business and Barkevious Mingo and D’Qwell Jackson should play off each other’s strengths well at linebacker.

The Bad: Do they have the depth to contend in such a rough division? They are a few injuries away from rejoining the ranks of the most deprived teams in the league. The limitations at wide receiver are still clear, and a large part of the team’s potential rests on Richardson holding his health together and carrying the offense, something he has continued to grapple with throughout the preseason.

X-Factor—Jordan Cameron: Maybe the biggest acquisition for the Browns is the new approach that offensive coordinator Norv Turner will be able to institute. He has continually been able to bring out the best of potential in athletic, but raw tight ends, and that’s exactly what he has in Cameron. The 6’5 target averaged 18 yards per catch in the preseason, after reeling in nearly 10 yards per grab a year ago.

Schedule: MIA (W), @BAL (L), @MIN (L), CIN (W), BUF (W), DET (L), @GB (L), @KC (W), BAL (W), @CIN (L), PIT (W), JAX (W), @NE (L), CHI (L), @NYJ (L), @PIT (L)

Prediction: It’s a tough spot to be in trying to develop in the AFC North. But after a long ride on the bottom rung of the talent pool, the Browns are putting things together and have the right coaching to guide what’s in place. While a move out of the cellar isn’t likely, they could prove to be a big time spoiler in the no weeks off grind of the Black and Blue division. 7-9

 

Antonio Brown will have his busiest fall to date, and will be charged with much of the responsibility for carrying the Steeler offense.

Antonio Brown, who has averaged 13 yards a grab in his career, will have his busiest fall to date. He will be charged with much of the responsibility for carrying an evolving Steeler attack.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8 in 2012)

The Good: Comparatively speaking, Ben Roethlisberger is as healthy as he’s been in some time. Despite losing a major target for the second consecutive year in Mike Wallace and losing long-time safety valve Heath Miller for the first half of this season at least, having Ben at his best gives them a chance to win every week. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders could both have breakout years under his watch.

The Bad: It seems odd to wonder if the Steelers are deep enough at the grit positions to make a real run, but the lack of identity in the backfield and along the offensive line are concerning, especially is a division with such aggressive defenses. Isaac Redman, Le’vion Bell and Felix Jones are not a particularly exciting row of options to balance the defense on, and the offensive line has struggled to give Roethlisberger to the time to comfortably deliver for years.

X-Factor—David DeCastro: He was heralded as the best colliegiate guard to enter the league in years…and then he never quite made it. The Steelers didn’t get a single down from him a year ago after he tore his ACL in training camp. If he can return to the natural form he showed as a bulldozer at Stanford in 2011, the running game has a much better shot at thriving, regardless of who’s running the ball.

Schedule: TEN (W), @CIN (L), @CHI (W), @MIN (L), @NYJ (W), BAL (W), @OAK (W), @NE (L), BUF (W), DET (W), @CLE (L), @BAL (L), MIA (W), CIN (W), @GB (L), CLE (W)

Prediction: The defense is still brutally tough upfront, despite beginning to slow down in recent years. The addition of Jarvis Jones at linebacker could be a shot in the arm of the attack, while the speed element at receiver gives them a chance to put up major points. They would be a prime candidate to steal a division title, but a finish in third place is realistic, as is a last team in playoff berth as well. 10-6

 

 

It’s no secret that the AFC North is the bully of all divisions in the NFL. Whether it’s the weather, the prestige or the plain out hitting each team brings weekly, there’s not much fun about divisional showdowns here recently. Once again, two of the most notorious defenses in the game, and perennial Super Bowl challengers, headline this mix in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Even Cleveland’s group showed some potential at being a headache a year ago, but there’s still a big divide between the cream and the rest of the crop up top in the North.

Can the Ravens finally push themselves into the driver’s seat in the division, or will the AFC Champs two of the last three years continue to hold them off? In Cleveland, can a gritty club with a new coach begin to make a long await breakthrough. As for the new look Bengals…will they find the long-awaited big name departures from the team to actually be a good thing? Here’s how it will shake out from the gully parts of the conference this fall…

 

All-Division Team

QB: Ben Roethlisberger RB: Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall FB: Vonta Leach WR: Mike Wallace, Anquan Boldin, Hines Ward TE: Heath Miller OT: Joe Thomas, Bryant McKinnie OG: Ben Grubbs, Bobbie Williams C: Mike Pouncey

DE: Haloti Ngata, Aaron Smith DT: Casey Hampton, Geno Atkins OLB: James Harrison, Terrell Suggs MLB: Ray Lewis, Lawrence Timmons CB: Joe Haden, Leon Hall S: Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed

K: Phil Dawson P: Sam Koch Returner: Josh Cribbs

BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-4 in 2010; Wild Card)

Offense: R. Rice-RB, J. Flacco-QB, A. Boldin-WR, L. Evans-WR (B)

Defense: R. Lewis-MLB, E. Reed-S, H. Ngata-DE, T. Suggs-OLB (A-)

The Good: The offense should have more punch to it via a few new additions. Lee Evans and Torrey Smith will finally give Joe Flacco fast downfield targets to open up their previously slow and methodical passing game. All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach, who led the way to Arian Foster’s breakout in Houston, will now be breaking open holes for the already established Ray Rice. This could become one of the most productive backfield combos in the league, to compliment the improving pass game. But…

The Bad: How the line performs will tell the story of if the offense truly lives up to its potential. Flacco is one of the slowest QBs in the league, so getting him more time to plant and throw is essential. Bryant McKinnie and Andre Gurode were picked up as All-Pro cast offs to improve the shaky unit from a year ago. Each has had conditioning issues, and will be asked to work through them on the run.

In the midst of all the additions around him, Rice could be on the verge of his biggest year yet.

X-Factor-Jimmy Smith: For years, the Ravens secondary consisted of Ed Reed making superhuman plays singlehandedly. However, they were dreadfully thin at cornerback, and they were beaten up on the outside because of it. This season’s first round pick Smith will be counted on to change those fortunes, and to be a youthful push to an aging unit.

Fearless Prediction: PIT (L), @TEN (W), @STL (L), NYJ (W), HOU (W), @JAX (W), ARI (W), @PIT (L), @SEA (W), CIN (W), SF (W), @CLE (L), IND (W), @SD (L), CLE (W), @CIN (W)

In The End: The Ravens have been the runners up in the North for the last 3 years. Despite the potential of improvement at many of their long standing trouble spots, they still have to find the consistency that has eluded them offensively. In the end, another solid, Playoff-bound season will still leave them in their customary position. Record: 11-5

CINCINNATI BENGALS (4-12 in 2010)

Offense: C. Benson-RB, A.J. Green-WR, J. Gresham-TE, A. Dalton-QB (D+)

Defense: L. Hall-CB, R. Maualuga-MLB, C. Dunlap-DE, Antwan Odom-DE (C)

The Good: There’s not a lot of it, but at least of they’ll be able to move the ball on the ground. Cedric Benson provides an experienced ground presence in the midst of a very young team otherwise. Being careful how much of a load they place on their young skill position players to carry will be important in controlling the season. Benson has back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons to his credit; he’ll get plenty of opportunities to have a big year.

The Bad: They are the wrong types of young on offense, at once. The team’s first two draft picks, Andy Dalton and AJ Green are talented, but having a rookie pass and catch combo as the big play element for the team is bound to struggle as they adjust. Also, a defense that was often terrible in coverage a year ago replaced its best defensive back, Jonathan Joseph, with an aging Nate Clements.

Green is an amazing talent, but how often he'll be able to showcase those skills this year is uncertain.

X-Factor-Jermaine Gresham: Having a solid close range option for a rookie QB to bail him out is important. The team’s first rounder from a year ago is the perfect fit for this situation, and offers a potential big play option from the tight end spot. That could make him an often used target and have a big second year in the midst of a rebuilding offense.

Fearless Prediction: @CLE (L), @DEN (L), SF (L), BUF (L), @JAX (L), IND (L), @SEA (L), @TEN (L), PIT (L), @BAL (L), CLE (W), @PIT (L), HOU (L), @STL (L), ARI (L), BAL (L)

In The End: It’s not going to be a pretty year in Cincy. The defense got worse at its biggest problem spot: pass coverage and didn’t upgrade against the run either. The offense is almost completely new and there’s no worse division for a young signal caller to get adjusted in than the brutal AFC North. It’s going to be rough season across the board in year one of these rebuilding efforts, but at least it will land them with the prime position in the next Draft to work on it. Record: 1-15

CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-11 in 2010)

Offense: P. Hillis-RB, J. Thomas-OT, C. McCoy-QB, B. Watson-TE (C)

Defense: J. Haden-CB, D. Jackson-MLB, S. Brown-CB, P. Taylor-DT (C+)

The Good: Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis bring balance to the offseason. While the Browns still aren’t an explosive unit, they are a tough one that can wear defenses down trying to get to them. McCoy showed he was ready to play much earlier than thought last season, and had an encouraging preseason this year as well. He’ll be active in the pocket and find ways to get the ball to where it needs to be.

The Bad: The secondary is good, but they’ll get challenged a lot due to the time QBs will have to pick at them. This is due to a defensive front that is very young and lacks the push needed to make a difference. This year they will start at least two rookies on the front line, and the linebackers don’t feature a rusher that can supplement this issue much either.

Despite playing with the "Madden" cover boy, McCoy is looking to make himself the face of the Browns.

X-Factor-Josh Cribbs: He has been Cleveland’s most dangerous weapon, but the changes to kickoffs will reduce is potential tremendously, as well as hurt an offense that will need good field placement due to a lack of big play potential. In order to keep his big play potential in the mix, he will have to make strides as a receiver, and be placed everywhere he can be in the offense to get the ball easily.

Fearless Prediction: CIN (W), @IND (L), MIA (W), TEN (L), @OAK (L), SEA (W), @SF (L), @HOU (L), STL (L), JAX (W), @CIN (L), BAL (W), @PIT (L), @ARI (L), @BAL (L), PIT (W)

In The End: The Browns have steadily improved over the last few years. New Head Coach Pat Shemur inherits a team that while still flawed, has some pieces that can keep that trend going. They’ll compete hard every week, but still aren’t a team that’s built to come from behind, and in they’ll fall victim to that issue until they get a true downfield threat to bring out Colt’s best. Record: 6-10

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (12-4 in 2010; AFC Champions)

Offense: B. Roethlisberger-QB, R. Mendenhall-RB, M. Wallace-WR, M. Pouncey-C (B+)

Defense: T. Polamalu-S, J. Harrison-OLB, L. Woodley-OLB, L. Timmons-MLB (A)

The Good: For a long time, Big Ben has made ado with his grit and creativity, but now enters his prime with more weapons than ever. Led by Mike Wallace, the receiving corps has multiple explosive deep threats in Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Hines Ward and Jericho Cotchery are gritty vets that go over the middle with no qualms. On the ground, Rashard Mendenhall is a step away from becoming an elite running back. The offense has stepped up to the standard of the defense.

The Bad: The offensive line around Mike Pouncey is far from settled. Roethlisberger is the toughest QB in the game, but even at his size, the hits pile up and he takes too many of them. Many of the same questions marks from last year are back this year. Also, the defense was susceptible to being torched at cornerback; it was what undid them in the Super Bowl. They made no significant changes at the position, and got even less experience behind the incumbent starters than last year.

Big Ben has the best offense he has commanded at his disposal this year. Will it be enough for ring #3?

X-Factor-Antonio Brown: In each of the last two years, a speedster was added to the receiving mix in Pitt. This year it’s Brown’s turn to go from special team stud, to in-game playmaker. Mike Wallace will command much of the attention from defensive backs, and this will allow Brown to use his top end speed to roam for open lands in more than just punt return territory.

Fearless Prediction: @BAL (W), SEA (W), @IND (W), @HOU (L), TEN (W), JAX (W), @ARI (W), NE (W), BAL (W), @CIN (W), @KC (L), CIN (W), CLE (W), @SF (W), STL (W), @CLE (L)

In The End: When at full strength over the last three years, no team has played better than Pittsburgh’s defense. Now a unit that barely gave up 14 points a game will be joined by a high potential offense. This mixture will return them not only to the top of the AFC North, but will put them right back in the mix for a third Super Bowl trip in four years. Record: 13-3

To see how right, wrong or in-between this all works out, and me living with it, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360.

AND THE WINNER IS…..

Posted: February 6, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL
Tags: , , , ,

It’s finally upon us, Super Sunday, and it has all the makings to live up to the title too. In many years, while being a great matchup, know who will win the Bowl isn’t particularly hard. There have only been a few times I’ve been generally shocked by an outcome, the Giants in ’08, the Patriots in ’02 to name the few instances. In other years, the way the score came to be was more shocking than the actual winner (word to the Buccaneers, Ravens and Cowboys). However, this year nothing besides a monumental blowout, 49ers/Chargers style, would shock me, because out of my 20 years of Super Bowl watching, I’ve never seen a matchup more balanced than this one coming into it.

What it's all about. By tomorrow one of these historic franchises will add another of these to its impressive display case.

The Packers have, from a seeding and injury perspective, been a group of overachievers on their drive to this point. But this is only due to them taking six losses this year, in the face of injuries and losses to some the League’s best. However, regular season records being what they are, no team that hasn’t been down by more than seven points all year (a crazy stat) can be considered a major overachiever. This team was built to get to this point all year, and it’s no major shock that they pulled out of the evenly yoked NFC.

The Steelers have been baptized through fire to get to this point. They came out of the AFC North, which is like fighting a war with your bare hands and a toothbrush as your only weapon. They bring both the league’s best defense and a durable, experienced roster that has been here before. However, they are still not considered the favorites, but once again, that is an exaggeration of what is at play. The intangibles of the game are in favor of the Steelers, and while that can’t be accounted for on paper, it has to be respected.

That’s what we’re looking at here in the CHEAP.SEATS today, where the divide comes in to play between these two clubs can be separated. Actually, a crack in between may be a more appropriate way to describe it, because this is going to be a close, fight to finish in my estimation. No more build up though, let’s get at it.

Quarterback: This is, as usual the headline matchup, and rightfully so, with both guys being among the handful of the best in the league at the position. Aaron Rodgers has been the best quarterback on any team in the playoffs this year, and has driven the Pack to the Bowl with his superb play. However, at this point in the year, experience under the spotlight is everything, and Ben Roethlisberger has not only been here before, he has conducted one of the great comebacks in the game’s history in last visit here two years ago versus the Cardinals. The talent divide between the two is so small, it can be decided based on that alone, so I give the edge to Roethlisberger due to his previous baptisms in Super Bowl fire. Advantage: Steelers.

Running Back: This is one of the clearest cut advantages for either team in the game, with Rashard Mendenhall being single handedly better than Green Bay’s three headed attack of Brandon Jackson, Max Starks and John Kuhn. Unleashing Mendenhall may be Pittsburgh’s best approach to taking this game, as stopping the run is Green Bay’s only weakness on defense and it keeps it away from throwing into the teeth of their dangerous secondary. The Pack has done a good job of compensating for the loss of Ryan Grant all year, but this is finally the point in the year where not having him gives them a great disadvantage, so….Advantage: Steelers.

Mendenhall's performance could mean more than any other player on either sideline.

Receiver/Tight End: Both teams have similar units in their weaponry at the top of their receiving troops. Each has a dangerous deep threat, in Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace, and two of the tough possession catchers that their quarterback trusts in Hines Ward and Donald Driver. The presence of Heath Miller at tight end gives Roethlisberger another dependable target over the middle, but the Packers have more threats on the outside and a deeper unit overall, with James Jones and Jordy Nelson in the mix as well, giving the Packers much more depth. Advantage: Packers.

Offensive Line: When center Maurkice Pouncey was ruled out of this game earlier this week, it was a major setback to the Steelers offense as a whole. He is their best offensive lineman and the axis that the entire group works off of. His absence makes them far more vulnerable to the blitz, and Green Bay can afford to come after Roethlisberger with far more recklessness, because their secondary is so good they afford the risk. While the Packer line isn’t the best, it is more intact at the moment, and takes the gets the nod due to being intact. Advantage: Packers

Defensive Line: A close matchup here has well, as both teams use their defensive lines mostly to open up holes for their linebackers to take control. The Steelers have gotten consistent solid performances out of Ziggy Hood on the outside, and Casey Hampton is an anchor in the middle, but the player to watch here is on the Packers side, and that’s their huge nose tackle B.J. Raji. Their 2008 first rounder will benefit the most from the absence of Pouncey, who he would have been matched up with all day. His pressure on his new matchup will benefit every area of the Green Bay defense, and is a crucial element of how the game will flow. Advantage: Packers.

Linebackers: Both teams base much of their attack from the linebacker position. Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk are killers for the Pack, and will be all over the field all day. However, when you think linebacker, you think Pittsburgh. James Harrison, Lamarr Woodley, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons are the best starting group of LBs in the game, and they are just are just as devastating on attacking the pocket as they are at stone walling the run. Their high speed, yet disciplined approach will be essential to limiting Rodgers’ ability to create extra downfield chances with his feet, which much of the Packers danger comes from. Advantage: Steelers.

Defensive Backs: For as big of a threat as the Steeler linebackers are, the Green Bay secondary does the same thing for them. Charles Woodson leads a group that took the ball away the second most times in the league, and has enough guys to cover every Steeler threat tight enough to give their blitz a chance to harass Roethlisberger consistently. If the Packers are to win this game it will come down to this unit making the timely plays. The Steelers have Troy Polamalu in their secondary, and he is the biggest defensive play maker in the game. Without a doubt he’ll make a difference in the game several times, but their coverage is the weakest part of their team as group, and despite how it looks at times, Troy can’t cover everyone at once. Advantage: Packers

Roethlisberger would be wise to pick his shot carefully when targeting Woodson's side of the field.

Special Teams: The Steelers have made changes at both kicker and punter this year, and for the better. Shaun Suisham has been consistent from everywhere as Jeff Reed replacement at kicker and that is huge in such a game. Return options are plentiful for the Steelers as well, with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are both threats to make a big return for Pittsburgh as well, and Antwan Randle-El is still dangerous as well. On the other sideline, Mason Crosby has one of the most powerful legs in the game, but is erratic at times and a badly timed miss in this game would make a fatal difference. For dependability’s sake, Pittsburgh has a much safer overall unit. Advantage: Steelers.

Coaching: Mike Tomlin’s place in the league’s hierarchy of coaches is severely underrated. He makes measured decisions, while still being deploying an aggressive scheme. He will rarely make an irrational decision, and his style shows through his team’s attitude and approach more than any other coach’s in the League. Mike McCarthy has done a great job in keeping the Packers on course, despite a constant string of injuries to critical pieces of the team. He will have them ready on Sunday to stare down the Steelers on all fronts. However, experience on this level means everything in blocking out everything else and managing just the game itself, and in that regard Tomlin has the edge. Advantage: Steelers.

The underrated job of Tomlin has Pittsburgh in position for their second ring in his first four years on the job.

In summary, by positional breakdowns favor the Steelers 5 to 4 and showcases just how tight of a match up this is. I’m with the intangibles today, the “It Factor”. The Steelers as a unit have had tough road this year & there is no team tougher than them in the League. In a matchup of two stingy defenses, Pitt has more game breaking; big play guys on their side, and those plays could make the entire difference in a close game. That combined with them having a better running game to control the clock with & the experience at this level previously will put them over the top & bring home the franchise’s record seventh Super Bowl title today.

So far this week, I’ve recapped the where the Super Bowl has been, but now it’s time to turn to where it is going. Super Bowl week is in full swing in Dallas and the attention is on which club will be the 46th champion of the Big Game. The Green Bay Packers are currently favored to take down the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in their first appearance in the game in 13 years, despite the Steelers being the more proven of the two franchises in recent times, as they are seeking their 3rd Super Bowl in six years.

Each club has a lot of similarities in their structures. They each have big player receivers that can get behind any secondary for the score. They have tough defenses that have play makers at every level, with an X-Factor defender that can make back-breaking hits. Last but definitely not least, they each have quarterbacks that can make plays only a handful would even attempt to try, let alone actually make.

 

Polamalu landed the League's top defender honors, but will he be the most critical player on the field come Sunday?

 

However, of all of these units, which of these players will make the biggest difference in the game? Who has the biggest responsibility and has the biggest chance to send their club to adding another Lombardi Trophy to their historic legacy? Here are the 10 players who have to carry the most weight in around 72 hours in Big D.

10. Mason Crosby: The Packers kicker has one the biggest legs in the league, capable to nailing the 50 yard out bomb, and the Pack have no apprehension about deploying him from far out. His career long kicks of 53 (twice) and 56 yards show his ability, however it doesn’t show that for all of his range, his accuracy is prone to stay home as well. In his four-year career, Crosby has never landed 80% of his kicks in a season, making him far from a sure thing. With two strong defenses at work here, scoring opportunities could be at a premium, and Crosby’s leg could be a deciding factor, Truly a gift or a curse for Green Bay.

 

Having a dependable Crosby could make a big difference for GB against the stingy Steelers defense.

 

9. Maurkice Pouncey: The 2nd year center is the lynchpin of the Pittsburgh offensive front, and when he went down with a knee injury in the AFC Championship game, the entire offense fell off beat. His status has been one of the most watched pre-game stories of Super Bowl week, and with the tough interior Green Bay defensive his presence will make a marked difference in how Pittsburgh can attack. Details such as this can go a long way in determining the game of inches that make up the big picture of the game.

8. B.J. Raji: Speaking of the frontline wars , Raji is Green Bay biggest soldier. How he freely he can move about will plays a big difference in how Pittsburgh establishes themselves. He was in the spotlight for running in an interception in for a touchdown in the NFC Championship game, but what he does outside the highlights makes the biggest difference, where his (conservatively listed) 340 pound frame not only creates pressure by pushing back the pocket, but also closes down the inside running game, which is what the Steelers may have to lean on heavily again if Pouncey is a no-go.

7. Ike Taylor: the Green Bay passing game will be on display early and often as usual and Pitt corners have perhaps the biggest burden to carry of any unit in the game. Taylor is the best corner the Black and Yellow has to deploy, and will most likely be assigned speedster Greg Jennings, Aaron Rodger’s favorite deep threat. How closely he stays on Jennings will make a huge difference in how far Rodgers can look downfield, and what is open underneath the secondary as well. Pass coverage has been the one blemish on the Steeler defense this year, and Taylor must have an effective day all over the field to not have a relapse of these problems.

 

How Taylor and the Pitt secondary performs will make the biggest difference in the outcome in Dallas.

 

6. Flozell Adams: Usually the quarterback’s blindside tackle is the most critical lineman to his success, but there is an exception to that rule when his opposite mate on the line is assigned to Clay Matthews, as Adams will be on Sunday. While stopping Matthews completely isn’t going to happen, Adams has to dig down and make every play one that the Packers pass rush terror has to work for. If Big Ben has pressure coming from inside AND Matthews consistently besting Adams on the other end, it could be a short, yet long day for the Steeler offense, with Roethlisberger spending more time looking at the sky than at the coverage.

5. Clay Matthews: Speaking of Matthews, there is far more to his impact on the game than just how many sacks he racks up. While he will without a doubt be deployed to attack the pocket frequently, the result of the attention he commands is just as important as the result he brings himself. Despite being assigned as Adams’ responsibility, it will take more than just him to hold off Matthews, which could mean that Heath Miller or Matt Spaeth is devoted to watching him as well, and therefore take a target away from Roethlisberger. Also the attention on Matthews gives more freedom to Ryan Pickett or A.J. Hawk to attack more freely. Less can still be more as far as Matthews’ stat line goes, and Pittsburgh may have to accept not picking their poison, but just how much of it they are willing to take.

4. Greg Jennings: One of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL, Jennings could have a big day on Sunday on just a few catches. The Steeler secondary has had issues with stopping the outside pass all year, and Jennings is one of the craftier receivers in the game at finding open space and getting deep for the long score. His career long distance scores of 75, 82, 83 and his record long of 86 this season prove that in a blink of the eye he could make all of the difference in close game and give a quick lead to the Pack.

 

If Jennings gets too open even a few times it could spell quick doom for Pittsburgh's hopes.

 

3. Ben Roethlisberger: He’s been here before, and he knows what it takes to get the job done. Big Ben will be ready to play, and he is the perfect QB to take on the Packer defense, which is tough at every level and requires a high level of adaptation to beat repeatedly over four quarters. Considering he’s facing a team that hasn’t trailed by more than seven points at anytime during the season, he will have to lead a constant onslaught to bring home his third Super Bowl in his young career. The key for him will be not making bad passes into a Green Bay secondary that is the 5th in pass yardage against and forced the second most interceptions in 2010. Despite Green Bay’s prowess in coverage, no quarterback can stay alive in the pocket longer and wait for an opening better than Ben, an ability that will make it as tough an adjustment for the Packers defense to face him as it is for him versus them.

1. Troy Polamalu & Aaron Rodgers: Did you miss something? No, because both of these guys are one in the same. They have identical effects on both their own team and their opponents, in both preparation and in-game adjustment. Games like this are where Polamalu’s knack for being everywhere pays off the most. Whether it is cutting off the entire middle of the field against the pass, or coming up making the crucial hit, he is the single most difficult player to account for in the NFL. The same goes for Rodgers, just substitute the hits for passes and scrambles. No QB in the league creates more passing opportunities after the ball is snapped than Rodgers, and he has played like a man possessed in the Playoffs thus far, using both his feet and arm to paralyze defenses. Now he’ll face the best unit the League has to offer, and his uncanny playmaking ability will be matched by every bit his improvisational equal on the other side of the ball.

 

Rodgers' 109.2 QB rating is tops among playoff passers, and no opponent has had an answer for him completely.

 

The single most interesting feature of the Super Bowl will be how Polamalu plays off of and adjusts to Rodgers’ multi-layered passing attack, which deploys as many as seven different receivers in every area of the field. This is the perfect matchup of two diverse and unpredictable players on each side of the ball. Whichever one converts not the most, but the timeliest play, could decide which team takes home the Lombardi. They are tied here, but whoever ends up #1 will take home the hardware on Sunday, and will have to climb over the other to get there.

 

In part 3 of CHEAP.SEATS.PLEASE weeklong lead up to Super Bowl Sunday, let’s take another look backwards. I’ve already showcased who are my picks for which players had the best games or careers playing in the Big Game, but which games were actually the best? The Super Bowl is unique in that despite all of the hype around it, in the majority of years it actually lives up to it. In the last 10 years, only two games have been decided by more than 10 points. Ironically, those totals were scored by two teams that walked into Super Sunday with big time defensive reputations (’01 Ravens and ’03 Buccaneers).

I’m not going to be presumptuous enough to try to rank the best of all 44 Super Bowls played, for a variety of reasons. One being I want to have an actual opinion from memory, meaning I want to comment on what I’ve seen. With all due respects to the Steel Curtain & Roger Staubach & company in Dallas, it’s hard for me to remember things that happened before I was born (for obvious logistical reasons). Also, I won’t count myself as actually understanding what was going on when Joe Montana took to the field for his late 80’s Super Bowl reign, because while I watched it, I didn’t really have a clue what was going on like I would need to include them on this list. NFL Films or opinions from others isn’t at work here, just a guy’s memory who has only missed one Super Bowl broadcast  in the last 20 years. The first Super Bowl I remember is Super Bowl XXV in 1991, so this rounds out well and makes the top 10 of the last 20 years a manageable task. Enjoy.

10. Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17 (Super Bowl XXX, 1996): This game was a tale of two halves, with it being a defensive struggle early and then a Cowboy showcase in the second half. The Steelers took a 13-7 lead into the half, however a 20-point second half and three interceptions by Steeler quarterback Neil O’Donnell turned the tides of this game. Two Emmitt Smith touchdown runs and two Larry Brown interceptions sealed the Cowboy victory, a record third in four years.

9. Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21 (Super Bowl XXXI, 1997): This was a return to the spotlight for the NFL’s most successful franchise in Green Bay. Lead in by league MVP Brett Favre, the Packers took control of this game early and often. Its notability remains in the style in which the Packers won, with a couple of record-setting Sundays, including a 3-sack game from future HOFer Reggie White. However the highlight of the day was Desmond Howard and his 244 total yards, including a 99 yard kickoff return.

8. New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17 (Super Bowl XLIV, 2010): In a showdown between the league’s MVP (Peyton Manning) in Indianapolis and Drew Brees, the heart and soul of a dangerous Saints offense, this was advertised as a shootout where whoever had the ball last could be the winner. Instead this game came down to a strategic onside kick by New Orleans to start the second half, which they recovered, and a 15-point fourth quarter by the Saints, capped by a 74 yard interception return for a touchdown by Tracy Porter during Manning’s 4th quarter drive, which sealed the first Super Bowl for the Saints.

Crafty play calling and an accurate Brees brought the Saints their first championship in franchise history.

7. Denver Broncos 34, Green Bay Packers 24 (Super Bowl XXXII, 1998): The Packers returned the Big Game to defend their title against a Bronco team that was a redemption mission of sorts for quarterback John Elway, who had been beaten badly in his previous Super Bowl trips. Elway made a heroic run to inch into the end zone, while being spun by two hits from Packer defenders, but the main difference maker was Terrell Davis and his three touchdowns & 157 rushing yards, while playing with a migraine that caused him to miss most of the second quarter. A deflected fourth down pass by John Mobley sealed the win during Brett Favre’s late drive to tie the game.

6. New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19 (Super Bowl XXV, 1991): This game gets summarized by one moment in history, Buffalo kicker Steve Norwood’s missed field goal with only eight seconds left following an impressive drive by quarterback Jim Kelly. This miss is the most infamous moment in Super Bowl history, and also ended the Bills best chance at a Super Bowl victory during their four-year stretch of reaching the game, as the Redskins and Cowboys easily defeated them over the next three years.

Even 20 years after he went wide right, Norwood's missed kick still looms as one sport's greatest errors ever.

5. New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17 (Super Bowl XXXVI, 2002): In the history of upsets, this one was one for the books, with the high-powered Rams being 14 point favorites, while the Patriots had reached the game behind the improbable rise of their previously unknown backup QB, Tom Brady. The New England defense is what made the greatest difference here, giving up only one Kurt Warner touchdown out of his 365 passing yards and forcing two interceptions. In the end, a historic 48 yard Adam Vinatieri field goal won the Patriots their first championship of the Belichick/Brady era, and become the first Super Bowl won on its final play.

4. New York Giants 17, New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLII, 2008): In yet another Patriot appearance here, they were involved in yet another upset, albeit not coming out on the same end as they had six years earlier. This is not just ranked here for what it was as a game, but how monumental of an upset it was in the history of sports. The Patriots entering it 18-0 and looking to become the first team to win 19 games in a season, and Tom Brady and Randy Moss had the most productive seasons in the history of the game for a quarterback/wide receiver tandem. None of this deterred the wild card, fifth seeded Giants defense which continually stonewalled every Patriot attempt and deployed an ingenious mix of a heavy zone pass defense and unleashed a heavy blitz, which Brady never overcame. Also notable is wide receiver David Tyree’s amazing one-handed catch against his own helmet during a third down scramble by quarterback Eli Manning, which led to the go head touchdown catch by Plaxico Burress to seal the biggest upset in the history of the Super Bowl.

3. New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29 (Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2003): The Pats 2nd Super Bowl in three years was a thriller, and perhaps the most exciting of all of their visits to the game. After starting off slow, and staying that way for three-quarters, business picked up in the fourth in a major way. This final frame featured one of the best fourth quarter battles in the history of the game, with five touchdowns and three lead changes. It came down to a 41-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal to seal the win for the Patriots, his second such heroic kick in a three year span, but more on the other one later.

2. St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16 (Super Bowl XXXIV, 2000): This was a game that from the beginning smelled of an epic finish. The Rams, who had come to power shot out of cannon, brought one of the greatest aerial offenses in the history of the game to Atlanta for the game, to face the gritty, hard nosed Titans, led by Steve McNair and Eddie George. The first half of the game was a defensive struggle between the two clubs, with the Rams managing only three Jeff Wilkins’ field goals, but holding a 9-0 advantage.

Known for Warner's masterful offensive performances, the 2000 Rams legacy was saved by a very different type of play.

Following the Rams first touchdown by Torry Holt, the Titans kicked into gear in the third quarter and scored 16 unanswered points to tie the game up. However, the Rams true fashion kicked into gear, and a 68 yard Isaac Bruce touchdown put them ahead. The greatness of this game is in its final play, which came after a 72 yard Titan drive in the last 1:48 of the game. In the end McNair connected with Kevin Dyson over the middle, but a lunging tackle by linebacker Mike Jones stopped Dyson half a yard (if that) short of tying the game (with the extra point afterwards) as the clock expired to secure the St. Louis Rams’ first Super Bowl win.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23 (Super Bowl XLII, 2009): This game was a sleeper that turned into a dynamo. The Cardinals rose from wild card status to the NFC Champions behind the arm of past Super Bowl hero Kurt Warner and an incredible three game run by Larry Fitzgerald. This game was characterized by the big & unexpected play, and they came early and often. The first big moment came at the end of a strong Steeler first half when linebacker James Harrison intercepted Kurt Warner in the Cardinal end zone and returned it for a 100 yard touchdown, a Super Bowl record.

In the second half, Larry Fitzgerald took over, making a two incredible catches for touchdowns, the second being a 63 yards score which pulled the Cardinals ahead for the first time with 2:37 left in the game. This is when Santonio Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger took over. The pair connected on 4 plays for 71 yards on the last Steeler drive of the game, which the last being an incredible six yard catch in the corner of the end zone, which Holmes barely getting both feet down, to put the Steelers ahead. The Cardinals got the ball back, but a Lamarr Woodley sack caused Warner to fumble with five seconds left and sealed the win for the Steelers.

In game defined by the big play, the Steelers and Holmes save the biggest for last.

Will the 46th Super Sunday lead to another moment being added to this list? Tomorrow never knows, but the Packers and Steelers have some big shoes to step into shortly.

Yesterday I showcased my picks for the best defenders in Super Bowl history, during my life. Today we’ll switch to what lands the most headlines: offense. There have been a ton of the league’s greatest names to make their mark on Super Sunday, but only the best of the best rise above them all. It is impossible to list them all here, so some great individual performers, such as Kurt Warner & Larry Fitzgerald for example, may not make the cut. Likewise, some of the game’s most accomplished winners, (all due respects to Troy Aikman and Tom Brady), may be on the outside looking in too.

Here is the best of the best, the untouchables under the brightest lights.

Quarterback

Joe Montana-San Francisco 49ers (XVI, XIX, XXIII & XXIV): The greatest winner in the history of the game played his best under the most pressure. In four Super Bowls he won four games, one of only two quarterbacks to achieve this level of success. Montana threw 11 touchdowns with 1,142 yards in these games and sported a 127.8 quarterback rating. He took home MVP honors in 3 of his appearances.

"Golden Joe" never shined brighter than when under the Super Sunday lights, where his 4-0 record is tied for best ever.

Running Back

Emmitt Smith-Dallas Cowboys (SB XXVII, XXVIII & XXX): The all-time rushing yards and touchdown leader didn’t take off Super Sunday’s either, playing a vital role in three Cowboy Super Bowl wins in four years. His five rushing scores are career Super Bowl record and his 132 yard, 2 TD game in ’94 netted him a game MVP.

Of the trio of Cowboy stars on offense, Emmitt was the hammer that wore down Buffalo twice and Pittsburgh.

Terrell Davis-Denver Broncos (SB XXXII & XXXIII): John Elway takes many of the headlines, but Davis was the driving force in the back-to-back Bronco Super Bowl wins of ’98 and ’99, running for 259 yards in both his appearances and taking home MVP honors in XXXII after a 3-touchdown day.

Wide Receiver

Jerry Rice-San Francisco 49ers & Oakland Raiders (SB XXIII, XXIV, XXIX & XXXVII): The lynchpin over two eras of the 49ers dynasty, Rice took home three championships, bringing in a record eight touchdown, with two 3-TD games. He won the MVP of XXIII matchup with 11 catches for 215 yards and one score.

Rice took three different MVP quarterback to Super Sunday, where he put in work each trip.

Antonio Freeman-Green Bay Packers (SB XXXI & XXXII): One of the underrated game breakers in Super Bowl history. In two games, Brett Favre’s main target made his presence felt, totaling 12 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns, including a then-record 81 yard score in his Super Bowl debut.

Santonio Holmes-Pittsburgh Steelers (SB XLIII): He has appeared in only one SB thus far, but he maximized the opportunity, finishing with 9 catches for 131 yards. However his clutch performance on the game’s final drive lands him here, as he brought in 4 catches for 71 yards including an amazing game winning grab in the corner of the end zone in double coverage.

Tight End

Jay Novacek-Dallas Cowboys (SB XXVII, XXVIII & XXX): A key receiver for Troy Aikman that opened up lots of opportunities for his better known teammates, Novacek won three Super Bowls and brought in 17 catches and two touchdowns in the three games.

Offensive Tackle

Erik Williams-Dallas Cowboys (SB XXVII, XXVIII & XXX): The tackle that watched Troy Aikman’s blindside while he engineered three Dallas ‘ships and a bulldozer that opened up holes for Emmitt Smith record-breaking Super Bowl performances. He more than deserves this spot.

Orlando Pace-St. Louis Rams (SB XXXIV & XXXVI): Pace played against two tough and diverse defense in his games versus the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots, yet he still kept the heat off Kurt Warner long enough to let him to have two of the three best passing days in Super Bowl history.

Offensive Guard/Center

Mark Schlereth-Washington Redskins & Denver Broncos (XXII, XXXII & XXXIII): Before he became an ESPN personality, he was a road grating blocker for John Riggins and Terrell Davis and took home three Super Bowl rings for his dirty work. He was a key member of the brutal, and sometimes dirty, interior line in Denver.

Schlereth was a warrior for two of the toughest front lines in recent Super Bowl history, in two different cities.

Adam Timmerman-Green Bay Packers & St. Louis Rams (SB XXXI, XXXII, XXXIV & XXXVI): An underrated element of two great offensive teams, Timmerman played in four of the great offensive performances in the Super Bowl history and was a steady presence in front Marshall Faulk and Dorsey Levens. He took home two Super Bowl rings in four trips and played a vital role in each team.

Tom Nalen-Denver Broncos (SB XXXII & XXXIII): A quick and versatile center, Nalen was equally adept at opening up the middle for Terrell Davis as he was at keeping inside pressure off of John Elway. Nalen Anchored the Broncos’ offensive line which was the underrated strength of the back-to-back Broncos championship teams.

Kicker

Adam Vinatieri-New England Patriots & Indianapolis Colts (SB XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLII & XLIV): A six time Super Bowl attendee, and four time champion. If any player’s legend is owed to the game, it is Vinatieri’s. He has seven career SB field goals, including game winners from 48 and 41 yards.

No player has had to assume more sudden Super Bowl responsibility than Vinatieri, and he hasn't cracked once under the pressure.

Head Coach

Bill Belichick-New England Patriots (SB XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX & XLII): There may not be a more controversial or disliked coach in NFL history, but his success on the biggest stage is outstanding. He upset the a powerhouse Rams team for his first Super Bowl win as head coach, and followed it up with two more wins in the next four years. His success on Super Sunday did not start when he took over the reins in New England, as he served as assistant Head Coach for the Patriots Super Bowl XXXI team and was the defensive coordinator of two New York Giant championship teams in Super Bowls XXI and XXV.