As much as I respect 3-4 brainchildren/inventors Dick LeBeau of the Steelers and Dom Capers of the Packers, I respect the quarterbacks, the speed receivers and the conditions inside a closed stadium more. The last time Aaron Rodgers played inside, in a wild-card win at Atlanta, he looked like a cross between Steve Young and Johnny Unitas. His receivers continually burned Falcons coverage. And Ben Roethlisberger, given ideal conditions, is going to use the fastest receiver corps in Steelers history to his advantage.
Part of my duties this year at the Super Bowl include being the pool reporter at Steelers practices. And on Wednesday, I saw exactly what I had seen on a hot August day in training camp and what I had seen when the Steelers beat the Ravens in the divisional playoffs three weeks ago: speed. Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have given secondaries matchup problems down the stretch this year, and that won't change on Sunday. Same thing with Rodgers and his accomplished group of wideouts.
This is a game where I could see some defensive points scored. Look at Green Bay's defensive playmakers. Sam Shields entered the playoffs as an unknown nickelback. After starring with a two-interception performance in the NFC Championship Game, Shields now poses a legitimate matchup concern for Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians of the Steelers. Who do you try to exploit? The 2009 defensive player of the year, Charles Woodson? His $35 million running mate at cornerback, Tramon Williams? Or Shields?
On the other side, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are so good together in the deep secondary and around the line of scrimmage that I wouldn't be surprised after some plays one says to the other, "You complete me." What the Steelers lack in strong cornerback play, they make up for in pass-rush and safety help.
There is no question in my mind that the game will be close, and there is no question in my mind that either team could win and it wouldn't remotely be a surprise. Give me the Steelers, 33-27, just because I think Roethlisberger, the tree trunk, is better suited to take the hits the quarterbacks will take in this game and keep on ticking.
1. I think that in 16 months, or whenever NFL owners sit back at some cushy resort in Palm Springs or Palm Beach, the first question about future sites of Super Bowls won't be, "Was it too cold in Dallas in 2011?" The first question will be, "There's no way any of these sites can make us more money than Jerry Jones' stadium, is there?" So enough of the stories saying that Dallas is surely out of the rotation after the Antarctic weather this week.
2. I think I have absolutely no problem with Ben Roethlisberger singing and drinking at a piano bar until 1 in the morning on Tuesday in Fort Worth, as TMZ has reported. Why? Roethlisberger is at the Super Bowl with some of his best friends. The players have a night off. Football players with a night off in a new city are going to go out. And if you think Roethlisberger would be so stupid to do something drunk and disorderly with his recent past, you're crazy. The man is allowed to have a few drinks with his friends and to enjoy his time at the Super Bowl. Period.
3. I think, in response to many Twitter queries, I agree with many of you: I am absolutely flabbergasted that the Eagles hired offensive line coach Juan Castillo to be their defensive coordinator. I'll reserve judgment in calling it hare-brained for now or until I can speak with Andy Reid or Castillo in the next week or so, but it sure seems weird to me.
4. I think the least surprising quote of Super Bowl week came from John Elway when he told the Denver reporter that Kyle Orton still is in the running to start at quarterback for the Broncos. Did you hear what Elway said to me a month ago? Remember he said that Tim Tebow wasn't a good NFL quarterback right now? Why would you think, then, that the Broncos would be handing him the starting job this offseason? He clearly is going to have to win it, fair and square, in a battle with Orton.
5. I think I would be remiss in not thanking someone whose career is ending this weekend. His name is Vinny DiTraini. He has covered the NFL at New Jersey's Bergen Record since 1969. When I arrived in 1985 to cover the Giants for Newsday, DiTraini took me under his wing. We had a nice little get together last night at a place north of downtown, The Blue Goose, to say thanks to DiTraini for everything he's meant to so many writers in greater New York over the years. He's not only one of the best football writers I know, but also as unselfish a person as I've ever met in the media. His lessons in journalism and in life will stick with me for a long time.
Reminder: Dallas Tweetup tonight, 7:30-9 p.m., at The Common Table, 2917 Fairmount. Come. I'll buy you a beer. One beer now. We all have to drive home.