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Stillers-Jackers Pregame Outlook

February 04, 2011 by Still Mill

The keys to beating GB......Pre-Sup Bowl 45
Stillers-Jackers Pregame Outlook

The Stillers square off against the GB Jackers in Sup Bowl 45, in an epic battle of yellow pants and long-maned defensive stars.��


This will focus on the overall keys to this game.��

Stiller Offensive Keys:

- The #1 key on offense is, of course, Bruce Arians extracting his head from buttocks sometime prior to kickoff.If this were to occur, the Stillers have a fighting chance.�� If it doesn�t -- and if Arians� head remains firmly implanted in his rump -- you can expect a long evening of lethargic slop n� slather of the highest magnitude.Of course, the Stiller offense is not a scheme at all; rather, it�s a half-hazard assortment of grab-bag playcalls and Ben�s �improvision� (to borrow from Billy Cowher) on ad-hoc plays.���

- With Doug Legursky likely starting at center for the injured Pouncey, the ugliest matchup for PIT is Leggo against NT B.J. Raji.��� Built similarly to Fat Casey Hampton, Raji has 12 times the quickness, motor, and athleticism.�� The only NT in the entire NFL that impresses me more is Balt�s Haloti Ngata.�� Raji isn�t quite as knifing and disruptive as Ngata, but he�s awfully close, and he�s an enormous mis-match against Leggo.�� After the first 2 series -- if not earlier -- Arians should have a pretty good idea of how Leggo is faring against BJ, and if it�s ugly, Arians simply has to abandon the ground game or simply run wider than he�d prefer, and away from Clay Matthews.It is, however, enormously difficult running wide with any kind of consistent production in today�s NFL.�� If Raji is blowing up the middle on nearly every snap, there simply is no sense in trying to �establish the run� for a paltry 1 yard per carry.��

- Jon (not Bon, of AC-DC fame) Scott at LT remains a frightening proposition.�� I snap out of a sound sleep each night, with visions of Clay Matthews whipping by Scott and stripping Ben for an easy turnover.�� To this day, I don�t know why Flo Adams was never considered to be moved from RT to LT.....perhaps in the offseason, someone from the sheeplike Pgh. media will inquire.��

- The other tough assignment will be DE Cullen Jenkins, who is very disruptive and capable.�� He won�t start, but he gave the Bears fits 2 weeks ago and can be a load to handle.�� With Kemo always fond of over-helping someone who doesn�t need help, while under-blocking a free defender, I can see Jenkins and Matthews playing stunts all night long and toying with Kemo and Scott.����

- The Packer secondary will be the best the Stillers have faced all season.�� Woodson, Williams, Shields, and Collins have athleticism, ball-hawking, coverage skills, and an adequate enough amount of physicality.The Stillers counter with Wally, Ward, Sanders, and Brown, along with TE Heath Miller.�� This is going to be one helluva battle.�� Tramon Williams is clearly the best CB on the Jackers, and with Woodson being a bit long in the tooth, I adamantly want to see Wally or Brown go deep on Woody.�� Williams will probably be assigned every-play coverage on Wally, so Brown or even Sanders must be sent downtown against Woody.�� Ward, meanwhile, must be used on the across-the-field clearing routes, where Hines has often found soft, vacant area for huge chunks of yardage.�� For no apparent reason, this basic stable has died on the vine this season, and needs to be resurrected on Sunday.����

- TE Heath Miller must get involved in the passing game as a pass-catcher, not as a sidecar blocker.Quick pop passes and taking advantage of the Packers sub-par ability to cover the TE should be a staple this Sunday.Of course, please -- no passes to Matthew Spaeth.We�re trying to win, not lose, this game.��

- Get Mendy involved in checkdowns and designed flares.If Leggo is getting blistered by Raji, the running game goes out the window.However, Mendy is a vastly under-utilized threat in the passing game, with decent hands and good RAC ability.�� He must be used on checks and flares, which often are long handoffs and are plays that get him away from the disruptive Raji and out into open space.

Stillers Defensive Keys:

No analyst in America has exposed the supreme almighty lord deity of defense, Dick LeBeau, more than this one.�� (See here, as well.)�� This fellow at Yahoo Sports basically plagiarized my work, and I suppose I should be flattered that some folk in the mass media are starting to see the real truth behind this over-rated, over-adulated, over-worshipped codger who clearly needs to retire and move into a nursing home.��

The Stillers defense is essentially a paper tiger, the term the North Vietnamese mockingly gave the USA while going into the Vietnam War.�� The North Vietnamese felt the US was big and tough on paper, but when push came to shove, the backbone & willpower was soft.�� So it is with Dick�s vaunted �#1 defense�, which has looked great against Jimmy Claussen, Josh Johnson, and Kerry Collins, but got carved up like a Halloween pumpkin when facing Brees and Brady.��

- Be prepared to get out of the base defense.This is the largest key of this game.�� It�s implausible the Jackers will run with any consistent success.�� However, the Stiller base defense is wholly incapable of defending the Packer offense when it goes to 4-wide, which, if the Packers were smart, would occur on their 1st snap of the game and continue until the final gun sounded.


������� Other than true short-yardage plays, Dick LeBeau must be prepared to go with a 5 DB and even a 6 DB alignment, with Hampton and Farrior taking a seat (in the 6 DB) and Larry Timmons remaining on the field in heavy use throughout the game as a combination rusher and cover �backer -- sometimes rushing, sometimes dropping into coverage, and sometimes spying on the quick-footed Rodgers.If Timmons sits in the 6 DB alignment while the much slower Farrior remains on the field -- which has happened this season -- we�ve just screwed ourselves.�� Timmons is a true sideline-to-sideline �back who truly can do it all -- rush, pursue, tackle, and cover.�� Quite clearly, Farrior is not.

���� In the 5 or 6 DB alignment, Keisel and Hood will be the only true linemen on the field, with some spelling from Hoke and to a lesser extent Nick Eason.��


- Avoid the Softee Defense.��� Aside from Dairy Queen, no one is a bigger purveyor of Softee cream than Dick LeBeau, particularly if he has the slightest lead in the 2nd half.�� Twice this season, he allowed (hold your laughter) Mark Sanchez to run up and down the field in the 2nd half like the Grambling marching band, pissing away the first game and coming within a Dustin Keller dropped TD of pissing away the AFCC 2 weeks ago.�� You saw what Brady and Brees did against The Softee, knifing thru it like a hot knife through butter while no facing no pressure, no harassment, and no pass rush.��


����� Then there was the Sup Bowl 2 years ago.��� Armed with a 13-point lead going into the 4Q, Dick played his usual Softee brand of defensive football, to the point of lining his safeties up in NO MAN�s LAND, a full 22-yards off the LOS, which got victimized on a short slant by Larry Fitz for the late 64-yard TD.���


������ Ya can�t go soft.Harrison must be allowed to rain hell asunder down on the QB.�� Timmons and Farrior must be used in inside blitzes.�� Corners like Gay and Taylor must be sent on occasion to harass Rodgers.��� 5MRs (5 man rushes) and 6 MRs must used in abundance, rather than the rabid abundance of 4MRs that Dick wholeheartedly loves to go with.�� And our CBs must, on many occasions, get up in the face of less-fast WRs like Driver and Nelson.�� Softee, 14-yard cushions are not going to get the job done against this QB and this corps of receivers.��


- Limit the alley up RT for Rodgers to scramble.�� This is enormously important.�� Big LaMarr Woodley is prone to doing the Jason Gildong Wide loop Rush, which generally loops waaay around the Horn of Africa.�� When this occurs, the fissure created for a QB scramble is literally wide enough to accommodate a Cadillac Escalade moving sideways.�� Aside from Vince Young, Rodgers is by far the best scrambler the Stillers have faced all season, and he cannot be given a freebie 6-yard wide lane to saunter forward for easy, huge chunks of yardage.�� In man coverage, the running ability of Rodgers is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes next to a gas pump.����


- As it is, Woodley should be able to feast on rookie RT Bryan Bulaga, a stiff, lumbering Iowan who has seen a vast variety of struggles this season.�� I say, should.For far too many games in 2009 and 2010, Big LaMarr has been content to titty-fight and nipple-tug with opposing blockers, offering no more disruption than a 55-gallon drum.There is no doubt that that Packers will shift pass protection towards Jamie Harrison, which will enable Woodley to have near-exclusive solo blocking.�� In what should very well be his last game as a Stiller, let�s hope Big LaMarr does something more than paw and grope at Bulaga�s boobs.��


- Limiting the Packer 4-some at WR.��� The Packer offense took a huge hit when TE Jermichael Finley was shelved for the season way back in Oct.�� Otherwise, this would be a fearsome five-some.��


������ It�s still a quality corps of WRs, with good size and physicality.�� Jordy Nelson is a big, strong, athletic body, and veteran greybeard Donald Driver has long been very well-above average in strength, battling for position, reliability, and playing physical.�� Greg Jennings is the best all-around of the crew, having finished his 3rd consecutive season with over 1,000 yard receiving while also averaging over 16 yards/catch in each of those seasons.�� He�s the smallest of this crew, but is shifty, smooth, and has good quicks.�� I assume Ike Taylor will cover him on every play, and Ike will have to have his A game on Sunday.James Jones completes this WR corps, and with 50 grabs this season for a 13.6 YPC, he�s no chopped liver.CB Anthony Madison will be called upon to play the dime back role in obvious passing downs, and how well he plays could well determine a win or a loss.��


- Get some impact out of Troy Pola.��� Whether by design or injury, Pola has been marooned into a deep safety role in each of the 2 playoff games this season, providing no more impact than a backup punter in either tilt.�� To be sure, his presence surely scared away some stabs by Flacco and Sanchez, but when you have a dynamic, all-around Tasmanian devil like Pola, ya don�t keep him constantly dawdling around 18 yards off the LOS in deep security-blanket coverage.��


������ If Pola is fully healthy, then he must be used ALL OVER the field, particularly up near the LOS to bait Rodgers into seeing something that simply isn�t there.Pola needs to be in the thick of the action, punishing RBs and receivers and perhaps forcing a fumble or scooping a deflected pass before it hits the turf.


- No Gay on Nelson.�� Will Gay is somewhat adequate against average-sized receivers, but turns into a frightened pansie against bigger receivers and TEs.�� We don�t need Gay to embarrass himself, and his team, by getting torched by Nelson.�� Let McFadden take Nelson, please.��


- Lack of speed at FS.Rest assured, Clark will be the #1 guy targeted by the Jackers on deep routes this Sunday. Dick LeBeau has got to expect this and not allow Clark to be tooled all alone on an island.


Spec Teams


With the game being played indoors, the punters and kickers should all be able to plant well and boot without fear of wind and cold.��


I like what Tonio Brown has brought to the KO return game, showing good patience, vision, and running to daylight.�� He�s also more dangerous than Randle El on punt returns, although Tomlin always favors El on punts deep in Stiller territory.This is actually a farce, as it�s been El who has been more shaky, more risk-taking, and more likely to commit the big boner, than Brown.��


PK Shaun Suisham has been quietly effective on FGs.��


GB is odd in terms of punt returns, as only CB Tramon Williams returned punts in the regular season.�� (I found this such an oddity, that I re-confirmed this stat on 2 other web sites besides NFL dot.�� Typically, these chores are parsed out to a few players...)�� Brandon Underwood returned 1 postseason punt for 0 yards.�� If Willie is assigned to cover Mike Wally all game long, this guy should be fairly gassed on most 4th downs, unless an injury timeout or replay challenge provides a breather.��


Stiller punter Jeremy Krapinos remains my biggest fear on spec teams, with his penchant for shallow punts, combined with his penchant for booming pooch punts into the EZ for harmless TBs.On a planet of at least 3,000 professional & collegiate soccer and rugby players, as well as 200+ BCS & FCS college football teams, it astonishes me that there are no better punters available than bags of shit like Paul Ernster and Jeremy Krapinos.��




���� The Pack are new at the Sup Bowl stage, and it can certainly be a huge adjustment for those players and coaches who�ve never been.�� It�s very typical for first-timers -- especially QBs -- to come out wobbly, feeble, tentative, and meek.�� Witness Sup Bowl 40, when both the Stillers and Hawks teetered about most of the game like 7th graders attending their first school dance.�� In Sup Bowl 30, the Stillers, on BOTH sides of the ball, came out timid, tip-toey, and mild mannered.


����� Ditto for the AZ Cards 2 years ago.�� The Cards rushed 6 times in the 1st half and gained all of 10 (TEN) yards, while playing a bland, ultra-conservative brand of offensive football.In the 2nd half, the Cards abandoned the running game, rushing only when they needed to convert short yardage or the rare draw.�� They rushed 6 times for 23. ���More critically (and productively), they passed the ball 25 times for 242 yards and two TDs.�� Quite clearly, they should have come out passing the football EARLY, and much more OFTEN, in a spread formation.This was the Cards' obvious STRENGTH against the obvious weakness of the Steelers.


����� It wasn�t until the 2nd half that the �96 Stillers and �09 Cards played with the kind of vigor, gusto, and audacity that comprises winning football.�� Unfortunately for both those teams, they waited too long and pissed away an entire 1st half in their losing efforts.��


����� The Packers have several assistant coaches with big-game experience as players, to include Kevin Greene and Darren Perry.��� However, neither head coach Mike McCarthy, OC Joe Philbin, nor DC Dom Capers (former Stiller DC, no less) has been in that capacity in a Sup Bowl, nor has QB A. Rodgers.It can be a huge adjustment, as all too often these newbies spend the 1st half trying to pound square pegs into round holes, all for the sake of �balance� and �keeping the game close�.���




The Packers are slightly favored.They�ve gotten hot and taken on all comers, while the Stillers have unimpressively played only 1 good half in each of their 2 playoff games.��


The Stillers, pound for pound, are deeper, tougher, more experienced, and are, quite frankly, a better all-around team.However, because of the prolific and electric ability of the Packers� offense, this is no gimme.If the Stillers can address the 2 biggest keys -- neutralizing Raji while on offense and getting out of their base on defense against the 4-wides of Green Gay -- they stand a solid chance of securing victory.��


I see this game playing out as follows.�� The Jackers come out and play tepid, meek, and tentative.The Stillers piss away some good opportunities, but take a 13-point lead into the locker room.In the 2nd half, Dick LeBeau once again goes soft n� cheesy, while Rodgers and the Packers come out with audacity, going 4-wide on every play while all but eschewing the run.��� Rodgers finds his rhythm and the carving begins.�� This is a gut wrenching call, but I cannot, in good conscience as a nationally respected sports analyst, ignore the abundance of hard, factual trend analysis of Dick LeBeau�s total inability to stop any offense with the slightest bit of competence, much less a top tier QB like Rodgers.This will be a nip-and-tuck game, with the Pack absorbing an early Stiller assault and then making the clutch plays to come from behind in the 2H against a Softee Defense to take the Lombardi back to Wisconsin with a 29-27 win over the Stillers.  


Stay tuned for in-depth Postgame coverage on Monday and the days following �the day after�.



(Still Mill and -- when it comes to the analysis of the Pittsburgh Stillers, no one else comes close�.)



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