These five matchups will help shape the course of Super Bowl XLV
QB Aaron Rodgersvs.S Troy Polamalu
A bum knee prevented Polamalu from playing in the Green Bay--Pittsburgh game last season, when Rodgers threw for 383 yards and three scores with no interceptions in a 37--36 Packers loss. Accounting for Polamalu will be critical—he tied for second in the NFL with seven interceptions and is the only Steelers defender with authority to freelance within the scheme. He had a takeaway, a tackle or a forced fumble late in four games this year that preserved or set up a victory.
DT B.J. Rajivs.C Doug Legursky
With rookie standout center Maurkice Pouncey expected to miss the game with an ankle injury, Legursky will be tested by the quick and strong 337-pound Raji, who has played his best football over the last two months. Legursky has never started an NFL game at center and had exchange issues (including a fumbled snap) with Ben Roethlisberger against the Jets. Watch for Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers to blitz the A gap early to test Legursky.
RT Bryan Bulagavs.OLB LaMarr Woodley
As if starting in the Super Bowl as a rookie isn't challenge enough, Bulaga will face Woodley, a fourth-year pro with at least one sack in each of his six career playoff games. The 6'2", 265-pound Woodley is strong and quick and understands how to use leverage against bigger pass blockers like Bulaga (6'5", 314). If the Pack breaks down in pass protection on the edges, Rodgers's mobility won't save him against Woodley and the Steelers' athletic front seven.
CB Sam Shieldsvs.WR Mike Wallace
In the teams' 2009 meeting Wallace opened the scoring with a 60-yard TD catch and closed it with a 19-yard game-winner. He's been largely silent in the playoffs but can't be overlooked, because his speed makes him a home run threat on every play. Shields, an undrafted rookie who played defense for only one year in college, has the speed to run with Wallace—but all it takes is one mental lapse or false step for Wallace to be running free to the end zone.
WR Donald Drivervs.CB Bryant McFadden
If Pittsburgh matches No. 1 corner Ike Taylor on Greg Jennings, it should create opportunities for Driver. The 12-year vet struggled with injuries during the season but is tied for second on the team with 12 catches in the playoffs. McFadden could be an attractive target because he's nursing an abdominal injury and was victimized by these very Packers in last year's playoffs, when he was with the Cardinals. Rodgers threw for 423 yards and four scores in that game.
DAVID BERGMAN (RODGERS)
PETER READ MILLER (POLAMALU)
JEFF HANISCH/US PRESSWIRE (RAJI)
JEFF HANISCH/US PRESSWIRE (BULAGA)
GREG ASHMAN/CAL SPORT MEDIA (LEGURSKY)
CHARLES LECLAIRE/USPRESSWIRE (WOODLEY)
JOHN RIEGER/US PRESSWIRE (SHIELDS)
AL TIELEMANS (WALLACE)
SIMON BRUTY (DRIVER)
JASON POHUSKI/CAL SPORT MEDIA (MCFADDEN)