Steelers' Game 14 matchup: vs. Packers
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When the Packers have the ball: For a quarterback who has been sacked an NFL-high 47 times, Aaron Rodgers has been remarkably productive. He is second in the NFC in passing yards (3,579) and touchdowns (25) and has thrown only seven interceptions. He has been particularly effective on third down, completing 68 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and an NFL-best passer rating of 127.9. His favorite targets are WRs Donald Driver (58 catches) and Greg Jennings (56). Rodgers was not sacked in only one game this season -- Oct. 25 against Cleveland, the same team that sacked Ben Roethlisberger eight times. Most of the protection problems have come against RT Allen Barbre, who was replaced by Mark Tauscher. That could be a problem against OLB LaMarr Woodley, who has seven sacks in his past five games.
When the Steelers have the ball: After switching this season to the 3-4 defense, the Packers have evolved into one of the toughest units in the league, ranking No. 2 in total defense and rush defense and No. 3 in pass defense in the league. Inside backers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk will be responsible for slowing Rashard Mendenhall, who needs 60 yards to go over 1,000. But rookie OLB Clay Matthews leads the team with eight sacks and will be asked to pressure QB Ben Roethlisberger from the outside to force him to step up in the pocket -- a tactic teams have been using to keep him from getting outside containment. The Packers are second in the NFC with 23 INTs, 11 of which are by CBs Charles Woodson (8) and Tramon Williams (3). But Roethlisberger also has to be aware of FS Nick Collins, who is second on the team with six picks.
Game: Steelers (6-7) vs. Green Bay Packers (9-4).
When: 4:15 p.m.
Where: Heinz Field.
Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970).
RB Ryan Grant: He is seventh in the NFL with 1,068 yards, but his average of 4.3 yards per carry is second-lowest among backs with more than 1,000 yards. He had 137 yards and a 62-yard touchdown run in last week's victory against the Bears -- his second 100-yard outing in the past four games. The Steelers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past 31 regular-season games, 35 counting playoffs. But each of the past three opponents has rushed for more than 100 yards and two backs -- Baltimore's Ray Rice and Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs -- have had 88 and 87 yards, respectively.
The Packers have won five games in a row and are coming off a 21-14 victory against the Chicago Bears. This is their first regular-season appearance in Heinz Field. The Packers are in position to claim one of the two wild-card playoff spots in the NFC. The Steelers have lost five consecutive games and are coming off a 13-6 loss in Cleveland 10 days ago. They need to win their remaining three to have a chance at a wild-card playoff spot in the AFC.
1. Hawk Ben. After being sacked eight times vs. the Browns, Roethlisberger will get lots of blitz pressure from the Packers' linebackers.
2. Be in the Driver's seat. Rodgers has thrown five TDs of 47 yards or longer and will stretch the field with his WRs, Driver and Jennings.
3. Be Dominant with the 3-4. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has transformed the Packers into the No. 2 defense in the NFL.
1. Raise their level. They have fared better vs. teams with winning records, beating Chargers, Vikings and Broncos in earlier five-game win streak.
2. Turn the Packers into hackers. Haven't intercepted a pass in past five games and James Harrison hasn't created a turnover in past eight.
3. Not Grant yards on the ground. Allowed 171 yards rushing to the Browns and ability to stop the run has become more suspect each week.
First Published December 20, 2009 12:00 am