I’m taking the Steelers, but truth be told, would rather see the Packers win Super Bowl XLV today.
And since everything in this space revolves around the Raiders, the advice for Green Bay is to cue up the tape from Sept. 15, 2002, Oakland vs. Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.
The Raiders were in their second game with Bill Callahan as head coach and Marc Trestman as offensive coordinator, having traded Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the opener, the offense was much as Gruden would have it _ 423 yards of total offense, 221 rushing, 202 passing, 13 first downs rushing, 12 first downs passing. The very picture of balance in a 31-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
In the days leading up to Pittsburgh in Week 2, Callahan talked about the need for similar balance against the Steelers. No way the Raiders could survive such a ferocious defense without it.
Of course, Callahan and Trestman had other ideas. New England’s Tom Brady went 29-for-43 for 294 yards and three touchdowns in beating Pittsburgh 30-14 in the opener, with the Patriots running the ball only 18 times.
Turns out, Callahan later said they had been game planning for Pittsburgh since the offseason, essentially turning the ball over to Rich Gannon and letting him control the game with his passing.
In one of the more memorable Raiders regular season games I’ve ever covered, Gannon threw 41 passes _ by halftime. He completed 29 of them, for 257 yards and a touchdown. They had only five running plays in the half, one of them a 36-yard TD run by Charlie Garner. By game’s end, Gannon was 43-for-64 for 403 yards and the Raiders prevailed 30-17. Oakland had spread Pittsburgh out and attacked through a series of short passes which helped negate the Steelers pass rush (they still sacked Gannon five times).
The Raiders had 20 third down attempts and converted 12 of them.
Green Bay doesn’t have much of a running game and would be best advised to abandon it shortly after the National Anthem. Let Rodgers put the ball up 50-plus times and have his arm be both the passing game and the running game.
The Steelers’ defensive coordinator in 2002 wasn’t Dick LeBeau, in his last year with Cincinnati as head coach, but Tim Lewis. However, it was still a similar 3-4 and even has two starters still intact in nose tackle Casey Hampton and inside linebacker James Farrior.
Some of the most notable success against Pittsburgh this season came from elite quarterbacks who controlled the game with their passing. Brady was 30-for-43 for 350 yards and three touchdowns in a 39-26 win on Nov. 14. Drew Brees was 34-for-44 (including 20 of 22 in the second half) for 305 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-10 win on Oct. 31.
As the father of a teenage daughter, I’m all for Rodgers winning over Ben Roethlisberger, although my first instinct is that the Steelers will win.
So my advice for Green Bay _ get lots of ice for Rodgers’ arm. Do this right, and he’ll need it at the postgame party.