Sunday, Feb. 6 Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Once in a great while I am brilliant. Five months ago in sports illustrated's 2010 season preview, I picked Pittsburgh and Green Bay to meet in the Super Bowl and forecast the Steelers to win 33--27, earning their record seventh Lombardi Trophy. (If I were really smart, I wouldn't have amended the prediction to New England--Green Bay when this year's playoffs began, so put away the magna cum gridiron honors for me.) Now that it's Steelers-Packers for real, I see three major questions, the answers to which will decide the game.
1. Can Pittsburgh's battered offensive line—with yet another starter, standout rookie center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), injured—hold off the formidable Packers blitz, which comes from everywhere? Tough call, but I like Ben Roethlisberger to be able to take a few hits, keep on ticking and make the plays under pressure that he's known for.
2. Will Aaron Rodgers's postseason hot streak continue? Problem here is, he's going to have to win without much of a running game. Though rookie back James Starks has given the Packers a lift, Pittsburgh had the third-best run defense in the NFL's modern era, and Green Bay's line isn't strong enough to win those battles. I like Rodgers, but not so much if he's an island.
3. Whose special teams will win? I love the job Packers punter Tim Masthay did in pinning the Bears back on Sunday—none of his eight punts were returned past the Chicago 20. That's a major edge in what should certainly be a very close game.
My call? I shall not waffle again. After ceding the Super Bowl MVP to Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes in his two previous victories, Roethlisberger finally gets his own with a three-touchdown day and caps a season of redemption.
STEELERS 33, PACKERS 27