Should the Pittsburgh Steelers really complete the “Stairway to Seven” this year and clinch Super Bowl XLV, they are going to need a few key players to step up and make a huge impact. Here is the list of the Top 5 men in black and gold that we think are going to be pivotal for the Steelers to beat the Super Bowl odds.
Ben Roethlisberger: It almost goes without saying that the Steelers are going to need a big time game out of Big Ben, but history doesn’t really suggest that he needs to be the dynamo to take the Lombardi Trophy. He really didn’t play all that well in either of the two Super Bowl triumphs for the Steelers in the past, but the difference this year is that he is dealing with a young, inexperienced offensive line and a running game that doesn’t know what it is like to drive the ball down the throats of the competitor when it really counts the most. Roethlisberger has probably the most explosive set of receivers that he has ever had, as WR Mike Wallace has really excelled as a deep threat, while WR Hines Ward and TE Heath Miller are really like the “Old Reliable” men of the bunch. We don’t think that Big Ben needs to throw for 300 yards or four TDs to win this game, but he needs to continue to direct the offense and keep track of the football without turning it over too many times. A 230 yard performance with a TD and no picks is a great game for Roethlisberger.
Rashard Mendenhall: Here’s another “duh” statement. Mendenhall has already handled the pigskin over 400 times this year in 18 games, and he is inevitably going to be called upon another 20-25 times at minimum on Sunday in the biggest game of the year. This is a man that virtually never fumbles, and he is always very tough to take down, especially in space. The former member of the Illinois Fighting Illini isn’t known for his flashy runs, as he only had one carry of more than 38 yards all season long, but he is certainly a load to tackle when he is slamming the ball right up the gut. There might not be a man that is better in short yardage situations in the entire league than Mendenhall, and his effectiveness is going to be the key to victory on Sunday.
Maurkice Pouncey: Never before has the play of an offensive lineman been so important, especially one that is a rookie. Pouncey has been dealing with an ankle injury since the second half of the AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets, and he has really been a topic of conversation in Dallas. The rookie from the University of Florida made the Pro Bowl this year as a first year man, something that is unheard of, especially for a man in the middle of the offensive line that rarely gets all that much praise. Still, we know that the big DT BJ Raji is going to be staring either Pouncey or his backup OL Doug Legursky right in the face, and we know that the former Boston College Eagle is going to be all over the place trying to make life a living hell on these offensive linemen. With both outside tackles already out of the fold, the Steelers need to be able to anchor down the middle of the O-Line. If Pouncey can do that, they’re going to be in great shape. If not, Roethlisberger had better have his life insurance policy paid up.
James Farrior: Ok, we know that LB LaMarr Woodley and LB James Harrison are the sack masters of the bunch and that LB Lawrence Timmons is really the next great up and coming Pittsburgh middle linebacker, but Farrior is the key man in this rush defense for the Steelers. He is the one that is either going to push RB James Starks out to Harrison or Woodley for cleaning up, or he is the one that is going to stuff the rookie out of Buffalo right in his tracks in the middle of the line of scrimmage. The battle between the interior offensive line for the Packers and the combination of Farrior and Timmons should be very, very interesting. Head Coach Mike Tomlin knows that there might not be a more important man to his defense’s effort to beat the Super Bowl betting lines than Farrior.
Troy Polamalu: How could we leave out the Defensive Player of the Year from this discussion? Polamalu might be the legitimate MVP of the entire league, and he has proven it just by when he has been in and out of the lineup in recent years. When he missed the majority of the middle of last season, the Steelers were getting blown to bits by teams like the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders. With him back in the lineup, they once again have a legit Top 5 defense. There aren’t any players that can really cover the same type of ground as Polamalu can in a short period of time, and this is a safety that is clearly great both in coverage and in blitz packages, and if the runs are consistent up the middle and the linebackers aren’t getting into the hole quick enough, you can bet that the wild haired safety is going to be right there. Polamalu needs to be at full strength and at his best, and if he is, Pittsburgh is going to have a very tough ‘D’ to stop.