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Super Bowl XLV matchup of the day: Friday

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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By Dan Arkush

Fifth in a six-part series

Here’s a look at a key matchup heading into the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV showdown with the Steelers Sunday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Steelers WRs Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown vs. Packers CBs Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields

As is the case with the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has a plethora of dangerous aerial weapons at his disposal, which he utilized quite effectively the last time he was matched up against Green Bay’s pass defense. In a game the Packers’ defensive coaches have no doubt spent a lot of time breaking down in the film room the last few weeks, Big Ben bombed Green Bay with a team-record 503 passing yards in Pittsburgh’s 37-36 victory in Week 15 of the 2009 season.

The major WR beneficiaries for the Steelers in that game were Ward, who had seven catches for 126 yards, and the fleet-footed Wallace, whose only two catches in the game were good for TDs — a 60-yarder and a 19-yard game-winner with time winding down.

With the Packers expected to be lined up in their nickel defense the majority of the time on Super Sunday, look for Williams and Shields to share the load covering Wallace, who has refined his game a great deal since last season’s game, averaging 21 yards on his 60 catches this season with 10 TDs. Speed will be of the essence when Wallace and Shields, two of the faster players in the league, are matched up against one another.

Woodson, meanwhile, is more likely to match up against Ward, who is in the twilight of a great career but can still wreak havoc in the middle of the field, making clutch catches underneath coverage (59-755-5 this season).

Sanders, who can really go up for balls and also get downfield in a hurry, and the extremely sure-handed Brown, who made a huge catch to set up the Steelers’ game-winning score in the playoff win over the Ravens, have done a nice job sharing the Steelers’ No. 3 WR spot.  

The collectively stellar job turned in by the Packers’ CB trio of Woodson, Williams and Shields has been well-documented. In the postseason alone, they have accounted for a combined five picks and two sacks. Williams, who has been brilliant all season (nine interceptions, 28 pass breakups, counting the playoffs), registered two interceptions (including one he returned for a 70-yard TD) in the playoff win over the Falcons.

Shields, who has steadily improved as the season has progressed, came up with the game of his life in the NFC championship victory over the Bears with a pair of interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble.

Woodson has not been as good as he was last season, when he was named the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America Defensive Player of the Year, but he is still a deserving Pro Bowl cornerback who is particularly adept at forcing fumbles (team-leading five).


Saturday's matchup of the day: Packers OLB Clay Matthews vs. Steelers ORT Flozell Adams

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