Prior to the Snap, SUPER BOWL XLV!

“The mind’s deepest desire, even in its most elaborate operations, parallels man’s unconscious feeling in the face of his universe: it is an insistence upon familiarity, an appetite for clarity.”

“In truth the way matters but little; the will to arrive suffices.”

–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

So, you excited for this Super Bowl? It’s almost exactly like last year to me. Look, when your team is in the Super Bowl, those two weeks are amazing; you think about the game every day. When your team is not in the Super Bowl, you almost forget football season is still going on. I’m watching Saturday night’s SportsCenter as I type this, and the Super Bowl wasn’t mentioned until 20 minutes into the show.

You can’t expect it to be ahead of BYU-UNLV, can you? Fredette is the Mountain West’s all-time leading scorer? Where’s Keith Van Horn at?

So I’m guessing you don’t think the Pro Bowl is a perfect lead-up to the big game? You know what jumped the shark three years ago? “Irrelevance of the Pro Bowl” jokes.

So I’m guessing you don’t think Super Bowl Media Day is a perfect lead-up to the big game? Ugh, Super Bowl Media Day. If you ever want to talk about the media falling in love with itself…

You don’t like Super Bowl Media Day? Do we ever learn anything interesting from Super Bowl Media Day? The media ask questions, and then report on how the players handled its questions. It’s all self-perpetuation; none of the stories emerge organically. This year, for instance, the biggest SB Media Day story was how Ben Roethlisberger would answer questions about his off-field behavior. I, for one, don’t really care how Ben Roethlisberger answered such questions. What? He said he’s changed? He sounded sincere? I’m shocked!

Do you think Ben Roethlisberger has changed? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone in the media knows.

What about all the hijinks? Super Bowl Media Day is great for hijinks! I do like being able to use the word “hijinks” to describe Super Bowl Media Day. I don’t personally enjoy the hijinks themselves. Hey, Generic Late Night Show, come up with something original.

Didn’t that leaked Volkswagen commercial get you psyched for Super Bowl ads? I despise the hype surrounding Super Bowl ads more than the hype surrounding Super Bowl Media Day. The commercial is good, but it is not as good as it will inevitably be made out to be.

Okay, so storylines. Compared to most Super Bowls, I don’t see that many. You’ve got two historic franchises, so that’s cool. You’ve got Aaron Rodgers trying to tie Brett Favre with one Super Bowl title, with all of us overlooking that he would also tie Brad Johnson and Doug Williams and Trent Dilfer and, well, you get the point. You’ve got whether Ben Roethlisberger has changed as a person, which is somehow tied to his performance as a football player (or, if we’re semantically inclined, as a “teammate”). You’ve got Roethlisberger’s rising status as a historic quarterback. And then there’s the “Is this a Steelers dynasty?” question I raised last time. Finally, there’s the chance that this is the last NFL game for a long period of time.

Let’s go one at a time. How do you feel about Packers and Steelers? As you know from my initial NFL column this season, Pittsburgh does not rank highly in my AFC’s Hierarchy of Affection. They have enough Super Bowls.

As you also know from my initial NFL predictions this season, I picked Green Bay to get to the Super Bowl, so I feel pretty good about that. The Packers are a fun team to watch, I suppose, and I would prefer that they win.

Rodgers v. Favre. Worthy of conversation? No. Favre was a three-time NFL MVP. Even if Aaron Rodgers wins this Super Bowl—and wins this Super Bowl MVP—I would bet against him having as good a career as Favre.

It’s easy to forget that Brett Favre had a really good career.

Has Ben Roethlisberger changed as a person? Again, don’t know, don’t care.

Has he changed as a teammate? I care about this even less.

How about his historical standing? People have made the argument that Roethlisberger is approaching Brady in terms of historical standing—that if the Steelers were to win tonight, he would be right next to Tom, since they’d each have three titles. Obviously, Super Bowl rings matter a lot in historical conversations. But let’s be clear here: Ben Roethlisberger, almost regardless of how he plays tonight, will not approach Brady historically. He still won’t be past Peyton Manning, even though he has two more titles. If you honestly believe Roethlisberger belongs in the same class as those guys, well, I don’t know what to tell you. He’s pretty clearly not as good.

Only Joe Montana has as many championships as Terry Bradshaw, and Terry Bradshaw is never mentioned in any argument about the top quarterback in league history. He is seldom mentioned in any argument about the top quarterbacks in league history. Ben Roethlisberger will be the same.

Not bad company! Sure, now that they’re all cool.

Any potential downsides here? Maybe it’s just me, but I put some stock in failing in a Super Bowl. I said last year that throwing that game-sealing INT to Tracy Porter would haunt Peyton Manning’s legacy forever; the great quarterbacks don’t throw interceptions that lose Super Bowls. People disagreed in the comments, and it’s in their right to do so. But the reason most people say Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback ever is because he always came through. He didn’t lose a Super Bowl, he didn’t throw a key interception in those games. Even the big playoff games he lost came because he got hurt more than that he played badly.*

And if you want to make the Brady/Manning comparison, I’m going to (perhaps) rationalize and say this: Although Brady lost Super Bowl XLII, when presented with the challenge of driving to take the lead late in the game, he succeeded. He didn’t throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown to ruin his team’s chances (and yeah, it was more Reggie Wayne’s fault, I know, but still…).

So, if Roethlisberger were to cost his team the game in any way, it could reflect very poorly on his legacy—even more so considering his prior performance in Super Bowl XL.

How about this labor issue? There is nothing more significantly boring to sports fans than labor issues. It’s been fantastic that we haven’t had one over the last decade, and I really hope we don’t have one now. Remember, it was one of the things I was hoping for most this decade.

Hockey eagerly awaits its apology. And it will continue to.

With a win, is this a Steelers’ dynasty? I said so last time, but John made a good point in the comments: Even though it would have three titles in six years, Pittsburgh has never been the best team in football in any of those seasons. There really wouldn’t be an equivalent run in NFL history. It’s almost karmic payback for all those years the Steelers lost as the AFC favorite under Bill Cowher.

So you backpedaled there pretty quickly? Stubbornness brands you for stupidity—pride is a crime.

Who you plagiarizing? Sophocles.

Was Nathan also right in his comment? Are you trying to make me out to be Jeff Pearlman here? No, I meant to respond to him in the comments there, but, well, I forgot. He was mostly right:

I take some of the same issue with his terminology that he (rightly) took with mine. For instance, it is entirely reasonable to say that Favre in ’07 was a top three or four QB in the league (my mistake; I’d put him fourth behind Brady, Manning, and Romo that season); but I wouldn’t say Brett was “at the top of his game,” considering he was demonstrably better in Minnesota last season than we was in ’07.

While he is correct with many of his specific references to the receiving corps (Driver had even worse numbers than I thought; Jones’ stats are similar between ’07 and ’10), I do maintain this year’s GB WR group is deeper. Jennings is a better No. 1 than Driver was in ’07, and while Jones is not as good a No. 2 as Jennings was, it’s my opinion (albeit as someone who hasn’t watched as many Packers’ games as Nathan, so admittedly amateur) that Driver is better than his injury-influenced numbers as the third receiver. Green Bay is the only team to have four different wideouts with more than 500 receiving yards this season.

All this is fine print, though, in comparison to the main crux of the matter, which is that the 2010 Packers’ defense is better than the 2007 Packers’ defense. Nathan appropriately gives credit to Dom Capers.

Now that that’s out of the way, what is the supraplot of this game? As usual, the uniforms! It’s the Super Bowl’s first-ever battle of yellow pants! And can the Steelers make it seven in a row and 11 of 13 for teams wearing white in the Super Bowl?

That’s such an important question that I dove into it for another website with a wider readership.

What does Tecmo Super Bowl have to say about this matchup? You’re not gonna let that wait until the end?

It went 0-2 last week. We’re getting it out of the way now. The Tecmo Curse begins!

  • The Steelers will call Heads, win the toss, and choose to receive.
  • Merril Hoge (Rashard Mendenhall) will run for two first-quarter touchdowns for a 14-0 Pittsburgh lead.
  • The Packers will run an inordinate number of ineffective reverses.
  • The second quarter will be scoreless, and the halftime show will feature the insufferable Mighty Bombjacks (Black Eyed Peas).
  • With a 21-7 lead, Eric Green (Heath Miller) will fumble deep in his own territory to give life back to Green Bay, which capitalizes with a Don Majkowski (Aaron Rodgers) touchdown pass to Perry Kemp (Andrew Quarless).
  • Pittsburgh will recover the ensuing onsides kick.
  • Bubby Brister (Ben Roethlisberger) will then rip off a 30-yard run on a designed bootleg to put the Steelers in field-goal range and effectively end the game.
  • Pittsburgh will win the game 24-14 despite losing the turnover battle, 2-0.
  • Tony Corrente will be the referee.

How is that discernible? Sigh, the ref in Tecmo Super Bowl is always shown wearing No. 99. Tony Corrente wears No. 99. These are the things I notice and pretend not to be proud of noticing.

Will the referee be Tony Corrente? No! It will be Walt Anderson, which fills me with that same outwardly-abashed-but-really-unabashed pride, since before the playoffs began, I predicted to a friend that “one of the Walts (Anderson or Coleman)” would ref the Super Bowl.

Your thoughts on Walt 1? Well, I consider him Walt 2, since although he comes first alphabetically, Anderson became a ref after Coleman. But I’ll play along. I usually don’t like him, but that’s because his crew throws a ton of flags, particularly in the secondary. With the All-Star crew in the Super Bowl, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Okay, we’re closing in on 1500 words, and you have not mentioned one thing about actual football. Wanna close down shop here or push forward? Let’s push forward.

Green Bay’s gonna win.

Why? Hmm. I don’t expect James Starks and the Packers to do too much damage against the Pittsburgh front, but I do think Rodgers and Co. will spread out the Steelers’ secondary and pick it apart. Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson, and Quarless are a solid quintet of receivers and, as we know, Rodgers had success against that secondary unit in last season’s meeting. One thing to look out for is how loyal Mike McCarthy is to the run. We’ve heard time and again that McCarthy thinks the number of rushing carries is more important than the number of yards, which is stupid. We’ll see how he responds if Green Bay simply cannot move the ball on the ground tonight.

On the other side, Roethlisberger will give you chances as a defense to make a big play, and the Packers have the defensive playmakers to capitalize on a sack/fumble or ill-timed interception. Two weeks ago, I picked the Steelers to beat the Jets because I had more faith in Ben Roethlisberger to make a big play than I had in Mark Sanchez. I was wrong then; it was a mistake by Sanchez that proved costliest. This time around, I have more faith in Aaron Rodgers to avoid a key mistake than I have in Roethlisberger.

But the experience! I don’t think experience matters as much in football as it does in, say, baseball, although mounting empirical and anecdotal data seem to suggest that it doesn’t much matter in baseball, either.

What about the coaching matchup? Can Mike Tomlin get any cooler? No, it’s metaphysically impossible. Mike Tomlin could coach the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Championship, despite their current 8-43 record and 24-game losing streak. And then, he would solve the NFL’s labor crisis and coach the Cleveland Cavaliers to a Super Bowl title, despite their being a basketball team. He is that cool.

Any errata you want to add? Can I get uber-specific as usual? You know you can’t say “No” to me:

  • On their respective opening possessions, neither team will cross into opponent territory. This will be compared to their high-scoring regular-season meeting from a season ago. The phrase “a far cry” will be used.
  • Mason Crosby will open the scoring with a short field goal after the Packers capitalize on a short field due to a short punt.
  • Pittsburgh will respond with a time-consuming but inefficient drive, resulting in a 42-yard Shaun Suisham field goal that curls inside the left upright.
  • The first quarter will end in a 3-3 tie. Joe Buck will mention as the game heads to commercial break that these are the top two defenses in the league.
  • In the second quarter, Aaron Rodgers will connect on a deep pass to Greg Jennings, setting up a three-yard touchdown run from Rodgers himself.
  • Suisham will miss a makeable (<40-yard FG) late in the half.
  • Crosby will connect on another field goal in the third quarter, but the Steelers will answer and then some with an excellent touchdown drive, capped by a Roethlisberger pass to Heath Miller in the back of the end zone. 13-10 Packers.
  • The Packers will be driving at the end of the quarter, and Crosby will kick another short field goal as the fourth opens. Buck will ask Troy Aikman (and the audience, rhetorically) if the Packers will be “kicking themselves for not executing in the red zone all night.”
  • On the ensuing drive, Roethlisberger will be intercepted by Tramon Williams (while under pressure from Clay Matthews). Williams will return the ball inside the red zone, and Rodgers will hit Andrew Quarless on a rollout for a touchdown and a 23-10 lead.
  • Roethlisberger will lead a quick drive down the field, with multiple connections to a hitherto quiet Hines Ward, eventually plunging in himself on a QB sneak to make it 23-17.
  • Buck asks Troy if Pittsburgh should try an onsides kick with roughly four minutes to go. Troy says No. Tomlin says Yes.
  • Green Bay recovers. Aikman wonders aloud what Tomlin was thinking. The fact that Tomlin attempted a much more unconscionable onside kick in the 2009 regular-season meeting will not be mentioned.
  • The Packers will hand it off twice to James Starks for little gain. On 3rd-and-9, Rodgers will avoid a sack in the backfield and find Donald Driver for 10 yards. Buck will refer to Driver’s status as the veteran and the longest-tenured Packer.
  • Green Bay will be forced into a tricky decision on whether to punt or try a long Mason Crosby field goal inside of two minutes. McCarthy opts for the field goal, and Crosby connects to make it 26-17. Buck will sarcastically mention Crosby as a legitimate Super Bowl MVP candidate.
  • The game will end with the Steelers halfheartedly trying to trim the deficit. There will be no Victory Formation.
  • Green Bay will win 26-17.

But has Ben Roethlisberger changed as a person? Sigh…

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nathan on February 6, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    I still think Brett was at the top of his game in 2007. In 2009, he was in a dome with the best RB in the league and a much better offensive line. The numbers are almost identical. He was clearly better than Romo that year. I’m imagining him throwing to 2007 TO all year on Dallas turf.


  2. Posted by Josh on February 6, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    I can verify your “one of the Walts” referee prediction, but to be completely accurate, you said “(coleman or anderson) not the other way around.


  3. […] last two sound familiar: There are only so many that work that well for a Super […]


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