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Five keys to Super Bowl XLV

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By PFW staff

Here are five keys to the outcome of Super Bowl XLV:

1) Aaron Rodgers vs. the Steelers' blitz

Strength vs. strength here, as Aaron Rodgers — one of the best QBs against the blitz — faces the famed "fire zone" schemes of Dick LeBeau, Pittsburgh's terrific linebackers and SS Troy Polamalu. The Packers love the quick slant off three-step drops, especially to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. The Steelers will drop any of their linemen and rush any of their back-seven defenders to get unexpected pressure. But Rodgers is quick and definitive with his throws and can scramble well if the rushers don't take him down.

2) Packers' secondary vs. Steelers' pass catchers

The Packers play a lot of nickel personnel, and those five defensive backs have been a huge part of the team's success. Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams are a Pro Bowl pair, and Sam Shields (who is outside in the nickel) has been a revelation, as well. But the Steelers also have their great mix of young (WRs Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown) and old (WR Hines Ward and TE Heath Miller) who will test that secondary. Ben Roethlisberger is not afraid to throw to any of his five targets in key situations.

3) Steelers C Doug Legursky vs. Packers NT B.J. Raji

Rookie C Maurkice Pouncey made the Pro Bowl as one of the best young interior blockers to come into the NFL in a few years. He hurt his left ankle in the first quarter against the Jets and couldn't return. Unable to practice on the ankle this week, Pouncey was placed on injured reserve Saturday. Packers NT B.J. Raji has been dominant of late and will be a major challenge for Steelers backup C Doug Legursky to handle without help. Pressuring Ben Roethlisberger up the A-gaps is a way many teams try to defend him.

4) Handling elite rushers will be tough business

One thing that stands out with the Steelers and Packers is the similarity of their 3-4 schemes. And they each have elite edge rushers — the difference is that the Steelers have two. OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley each can take over games while Clay Matthews is something of a lone wolf for the Packers. The biggest mismatches might be Woodley vs. Packers rookie ORT Bryan Bulaga and Matthews vs. Steelers ORT Flozell Adams. Both offensive tackles have had their share of yips at times this season.

5) Packers must shut down run for four quarters

Anyone who faces the Steelers must be ready for the power game from the first play to the last. Check out RB Rashard Mendenhall's carries by quarter in the regular season: 80 in the first; 77 in the second; 84 in the third; and 83 in the fourth and overtime. They will run and continue to run, even if teams stop it early in games. The Packers shut down Michael Turner, a somewhat similar style of back, in Atlanta and allowed only four teams (including the postseason) to rush for more than 124 yards against them this season.

Super Bowl XLV game preview

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