But heading into Sunday's Super Bowl, there is a pretty significant perception that the Steelers' pass defense will be at a significant mismatch against the Packers' spread offense.
A lot of that probably comes from recent and distant history. Pittsburgh has only been blown out one time this year, which came when the Patriots went to a spread offense and threw a series of short passes in front of the Steelers' zone. That has been a problem for the Steelers' zone defense at times throughout the past decade.
Back in 2002, the Patriots began the season by spreading out their wide receivers, eschewing the run and throwing a lot of short passes in front of the Steelers' zone defenses. When that worked, the Raiders did the same thing the next week for another Steelers' loss.
It will be interesting to see if the same storyline plays out on Sunday. Green Bay does like to spread out with four- and five-receiver formations. And the Packers are unlikely to spend too much time running on first and second down, which would likely only put them in third and long situations.
But unlike the Patriots (or the 2002 Raiders), Green Bay likes to go down field. Rodgers' 10, 40-plus-yard passes were the fifth most in the league this year and his 54 20-plus-yard passes were fourth most in the league.
That's where Sunday's game will get interesting. The Steelers gave up only 35 20-plus-yard passes all season -- best in the league. Pittsburgh's defense is designed to prevent teams from beating them deep, and for the most part this season, it worked.
|Impossible to be determined||1|
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).
McFadden also had more trouble during the first half of the season. His only touchdown allowed since Week 8 came when Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had seven seconds to throw the ball. It's quite hard to cover anyone for seven seconds.
It's likely that Ike Taylor will be asked primarily to cover Greg Jennings. Taylor has allowed only two touchdowns all season, one of which came when he fell down near the line of scrimmage. He's been Pittsburgh's best cornerback all season and he has the speed and size to give Jennings some problems.
|Game||Opponent||Yards||Person to Blame|
|Taylor lined up in man on Nate Washington, whoas lined up in the slot. Titans run a rub, Washington beats Taylor in the corner of end zone|
|Bryant McFadden bites on fake out, while T.J. Houshmandzadeh cuts upfield for game-winner.|
|Timmons manned up on Ben Watson. When Colt McCoy rolls out, Timmons comes off Watson to chase McCoy, leaving Watson wide open.|
|Davon Bess runs out route, catches it in front of Gay then shrugs off Gay's tackle.|
|McFadden gives Marques Colston free release outside. Colston catches it at end zone marker. Ryan Clark also can't get over in time|
|7||Saints||8||Bryant McFadden/Troy Polamalu|
|Lance Moore splits Polamalu and McFadden in zone.|
|Terrell Owens just runs past McFadden on fly route.|
|Terrell Owens sells going outside, cuts back inside of Gay for touchdown. Troy Polamalu also stays outside too long.|
|Rob Gronkowski runs post route, Gay has good coverage but Tom Brady treads a needle.|
|Play-action fools Gay who takes two steps toward line. That's enough for Gronkowski to beat him to outside.|
|Rob Gronkowski gets behind Gay as Gay seems to think he's running a shorter route.|
|10||Bills||65||Impossible to determine|
|Fred Jackson catches screen pass, LaMarr Woodley misses tackle then Fred Jackson outruns everyone.|
|11||Ravens||14||Bryant McFadden/Troy Polamalu|
|Not really DB's fault, as Joe Flacco has 7 seconds to throw. Anquan Boldin eventually slides inside.|
|Tackle-eligible Andrew Whitworth blocks, then slides off block, turns around and catches touchdown.|
|Madison gets turned around. Brian Robiskie reacts to ball while Madison doesn't.|
|Taylor falls down. Santonio Holmes breaks off route, goes deep for easy touchdown.|
|Jets run pick play, Gay runs into Ike Taylor so he can't stay on Jericho Cotchery.|