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Super Bowl XLV Preview: The Receivers

January 29, 2011 By: Admin Category: Pre-Game Analyses

This is Part 4 of our 9-part Super Bowl XLV Preview series.  In this installment, we’re going to take a look at the receivers on both teams.

To read the other parts of this series, click the appropriate link below:

Part 1:  Super Bowl XLV Preview -  Team overviews

Part 2:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The quarterbacks

Part 3:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Offensive Lines

Part 4:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Receivers

Part 5:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Running Backs

Part 6:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Defensive Lines

Part 7:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Linebackers

Part 8:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - The Defensive Backs

Part 9:  Super Bowl XLV Preview - Putting it all together

As Super Bowl XLV approaches, everyone is going to be talking about how good the two quarterbacks are in this game.  And they’re right.  Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers are both outstanding quarterbacks.  But even the best quarterbacks can’t shine without quality receivers to catch their passes.  And these teams have some talented receivers.

Both teams have a speedy wide receiver who has emerged as the team’s top receiving weapon.  For the Green Bay Packers, that receiver is Greg Jennings.  The 5th year pro is one of the deadliest long-ball threats in the NFL.  From 2007 - 2009, Jennings had more catches of 40 yards or more than any other receiver in the NFL.  His 16.6 yards per catch average in 2010 is 9th in the NFL among players with 30 catches or more.

As impressive as Jennings achievements are, the Steelers’ Mike Wallace’s 21.0 yards per catch in 2010 is even more impressive.  Wallace’s 10 catches of 40 yards or more led the NFL.  Greg Jennings was 5th with 6 catches of 40+ yards.  As fast as Greg Jennings is, Mike Wallace is even faster.  He will challenge the Packers’ defensive backs even more than Jennings will challenge the Steelers’.

WR's Hines Ward & Mike Wallace

Another similarity between the two teams is that both teams feature the organization’s all-time leading receiver on the current roster.  For the Packers, that player is Donald Driver, and for the Steelers it’s Hines Ward.  Both players are highly respected among their teammates, and both can still catch the ball.  But neither is as productive as they once were, and each is nearing the end of their careers.

The Steelers have two young receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, who have both played a significant role for the Steelers in the playoffs.  They provide Ben Roethlisber with enough quality receivers that it allows the Steelers to use 4-receiver or even 5-receiver sets.

The Packers are deep at wide receiver.  James Jones can be a feast or famine receiver, and Jordy Nelson is much the same.  Jones had 5o catches this year for 679 yards.  However, I’m sure that Packers fans wish that he were more sure-handed.  Nelson had 45 catches, but he hasn’t emerged as the threat that many thought he would be when he came out of Kansas State.  Unfortunately, the Steelers’ cornerbacks are probably their weakest unit, so they may make Jones and Nelson look like Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens.

The Steelers have a decided edge at tight end.  Heath Miller is among the best tight ends in the NFL.  Moreover, he is a dual threat.  He is an excellent blocker, and he has great hands.  Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t throw to him often, but when he does, good things usually happen.

The Packers will start rookie Andrew Quarless at tight end.  Some Steelers fans may be familiar with Quarless, since he played his college ball at Penn State.  Quarless holds the Penn State record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season and for a career.   Jermichael Finley started the season at tight end for the Packers, and he was Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target.  But he suffered an injury and is currently on IR.  So the Packers will have to rely on a rookie tight end who only started 3 games during the regular season.

Ordinarily, it would seem like the Steelers have a huge advantage at the receiver positions.  However, because of the Packers’ strength at defensive back relative to the Steelers, it may actually give the advantage to the Packers.

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have much of a running game to rely on.  Moreover, running against the Steelers’ defense is going to be almost impossible.  So if the Packers are to have any hope of winning the Super Bowl, their receivers are going to have to win it for them.

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11 Comments to “Super Bowl XLV Preview: The Receivers”

  1. I think Dom Capers will put Sam Shields on Wallace - and Shields is just as fast, and has cover skills.

    Moreover, Collins has the speed to catch anyone as well, and often gets the role of cleanup in GB’s secondary.

    That doesn’t even bring into account Woodson, who’s skills in the box are unparalleled, nor Peprah, who is a heavy hitter and physical against the run.

    Put Tramon on Ward. Put Wood on Miller. Put Shields on Wallace. Let Collins play centerfield. It’s that simple.

    If PIT is going to gain yards passing the ball, it’s going to be with their 3/4th (Brown and Sanders) WR’s against the likes of Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee. Not likely those guys see the field too much, and if they do, PIT fans had better hope Ben gets the ball out fast, because CM3, Raji, Jenkins, Walden and Bishop are gonna get home real quick.

    Bottom line: The entire skill position debate on both sides of the ball is a laugher. (and this is coming from a person who loves football give and take) I just don’t see how things stack up well for PIT there.

    GB has a decided advantage in all of the above - and that’s with Polamalu playing.

    If PIT can run the ball well (which is an entirely different issue), then that will even the playing field, as Dom will have to go to base 3/4. GB doesn’t rush the passer as well, nor cover as well in base.

    On the other side of the ball, if AR has time to throw, (and I think he will) I see him picking apart PIT’s secondary. GB has too much talent at WR, that PIT’s secondary doesn’t have the depth to match.

  2. Bearmeat,
    Thanks for all of your comments on the articles in this series. You thoughts have been insightful, and you’re definitely not a troll.

    I am admittedly a Steelers homer, but even I had to admit that the talent that Green Bay has in their secondary is going to be tough for the Steelers to overcome. The Jets may have Darrelle Revis, but as a group, the Packers’ secondary is much better.

    The one thing that I disagree with you on is that Sam Shields is as fast as Mike Wallace. We still haven’t seen a cornerback run with him this year. He had Darrelle Revis beat badly, but Ben underthrew the ball.

    Lugursky should do fine handling BJ Raji. Remember, he has to practice against Casey Hampton everyday. He’s used to big nose tackles.

    It’s going to be an interesting game. All of these questions are going to be answered on the field.

  3. gonna hafta disagree with bearmeat. although i do respect your secondary i think you underestimate our wr’s. last game would have been a lot different if cutler would have been having a better game, twice he had wr’s open for long TD’s and misfired…and chicago’s wr’s don’t even come close to ours. wallace does well when being covered by #2 cbs, i think shields (if matched up against him) will have more trouble covering him than you think.

    and i really doubt rodgers will have all the time in the world to hit bombs all day long. don’t get me wrong, i think the packers passing attack is very dangerous. but i don’t think they function with the short quick passes that NE thrives on and am guessing your team likes the mid range passes more, thus giving us more time to get to rodgers.

    oh, the laughter you might be referring to could be coming from comparing anyone of our 3 skilled rb’s to the guys running outta your backfield.

    it’s gonna be a great game against 2 great teams.

  4. Tim/Admin

    Good points.

    We’re gonna have to see with Shields/Wallace. Color me skeptical, but I’m not scared.

    Yes, there were a couple receivers open against the Bears. What team doesn’t ever get burned? All the players are pros, and will play as such. I’m not predicting that PIT won’t be able to throw the ball at all, but what I AM saying is that PIT will have to run successfully to win this game, because they won’t “go off” in the passing game.

    AR does do a great job with the hot routes. Short passes to long gainers are quite possible from Jennings, Jones and even Nelson. Yes, mid range to long is what the offense excels at, but they’ll take anything they are given.

    RE: Laugher comment. +1 to you. Yes, congratulations - your running backs are better than ours.

  5. If the Steelers had been relying on their secondary all year, they would not be here. They rely on their front 7. Who have been good for years, and are playing at perhaps their best ever (34 yards away from setting the NFL record for fewest rush yards). Facing a team with good WRs is nothing new for the defense.

    Oh, and they led the league in sacks too.

    All in all, the teams are interestingly similar.

  6. You are right Jim. They are eerily similar. They have differences, sure - but anyone who says this is going to be a blow out is a moron.

    The battle is going to be the front 7 of PIT against the front 7 of GB. The team that wins that battle wins the game. I don’t know who it will be.

  7. The Steelers secondary is generally under-rated, and it definitely deserves to be noted that the Steelers held Anquan Boldin to 1 catch for -2 yards. The Steelers allowed the fewest yards/att in the league during the regular season (GB was number 2) and the second best opposing quarterback rating (GB was number 1).

    That said, the idea of McFadden or Gay (our 2nd and 3rd CB’s) on just about anyone scares me. There are times when these guys couldn’t cover their own shadow at high noon. Ike Taylor can handle Jennings, but pretty much anyone can get open against McFadden or Gay usually.

    On the other side of the ball, I would love to see Shields on Wallace, but I think he’ll see more of Williams with a safety over the top. The Steelers receivers are really deep and under-rated, but you would practically need Welker, Wallace, and Rice in his prime to really challenge this Packers secondary.

  8. Thank you Matthew - YOU sir, are a very educated fan.

    We’ll have to see about Shields/Wallace. GB fans are pretty confident that Sam will do just fine. If he can manhandle Johnny Knox (who ran a 4.34 at the 2009 combine compared to Wallace’s 4.33), then I think he can handle Wallace.

    Jennings is an elite WR. He is going to beat whoever he’s on a couple times a game. Doesn’t matter who it is - Revis among them. I don’t know how good Ike Taylor is, but you could put pretty much any corner on Jennings this year and he’ll get him a couple times at least.

    And if you are a PIT fan, (and I assume everyone here except me is!), then I would pray that your front 7 gets to AR and keeps him from running before GB’s WR’s eat up that secondary. They are good enough, that it doesn’t matter who they play, they’ll win the battle if given time.

    All that said, I don’t know if GB will keep AR upright long enough.. I think so - but we shall see.

  9. On player skill, I would match up Wallace, Ward, Sanders, and Miller against Jennings, Driver, Nelson, and Jones any day. They are both a skilled set of pass catchers.

    Any advantage in the SB will be based on match-ups created by the game plan and the defensive reaction to it.

  10. You’re right John. They are both skilled - that’s why they are paid so much.

    But here’s the real test: Ask any DC in the league which WR/TE corps he’d rather face, GB or PIT - betcha at least 2/3 says “Oh, the Steelers any day”. ;)

  11. Thank You, Bearmeat, I appreciate the compliment.

    I think everyone basically agrees, though, that the Steelers will need to run the ball well to do well offensively. I would say that Steelers probably will run the ball with decent success, and that creates a new playing field for the Steelers receivers.

    Keep in mind the Steelers in the regular season ranked 2nd in the league in yds/pass, 2nd in passes over 20 yds, and 6th in passes over 40 yds, despite having the 6th Fewest attempts in the league. Keep in mind also, those stats are heavily influenced by the first half of the year when Sanders and Brown had not yet become involved in the offense, so if anything these stats under-rate the explosiveness of the Steelers passing game.


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