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The last time the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers met was December 20, 2009. Pittsburgh won in a shootout, 37-36, and Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger tossed three touchdowns apiece. So we’re in for another high-scoring affair, right?
Maybe not. Neither defence played poorly last year — Green Bay was seventh in points against and Pittsburgh was 12th — but they’re even better in 2010. This season the Steelers ranked first in the NFL with just 14.5 points against per game and the Packers were second, giving up an average of just 15.
Even though Rashard Mendenhall and James Starks have been effective in the playoffs, Pittsburgh has a phenomenal run defence and Green Bay has been staunch against the ground game during the postseason. Neither team was successful running the ball in their last match up — they combined for a measly 125 yards on the ground — so it’s unlikely that we’ll see too much grounding and pounding.
Roethlisberger and Rodgers, who went 29-46 for 503 yards and 26-48 for 383 yards during last year’s game, respectively, are certainly going to have to air it out, but they might not come close to matching last year’s scoring totals.
Though the difference in passing yardage allowed per game from 2009 to 2010 was minuscule for Green Bay and Pittsburgh, both the Packers and Steelers really cracked down on touchdowns through the air in 2010.
Last season Green Bay allowed 29 passing touchdowns and Pittsburgh gave up 22. This year, the Packers gave up just 16, and the Steelers 15.
That huge difference can be attributed to a variety of factors, but these teams have made their livings on coming up with big turnovers, getting key sacks, and keeping their opponents out of the end zone.
The outcome of the 2009 game and the fact that two of the best quarterbacks in the league are set to clash in Super Bowl XLV may make it seem logical that we’re in for a barn burner next weekend. But if Charles Woodson’s Packers and Troy Polamalu’s Steelers play as well as they have all season, this game could end up falling far short of the 44 point over-under line.