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NFL Pro Football 2010-11 Super Bowl XLV Picks - special teams, coaching, intangibles

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Fearless Rick's NFL Super Bowl XLV Picks

Rick Gagliano | February 6, 2011

All times Eastern



Offense/Defense/Stats

Special Teams, Coaching, Intangibles

Final Analysis, Picks and Props



Super Bowl XLV

PITTSBURGH STEELERS vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS

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Special Teams, Coaching and Intangibles.

Pittsburgh Special Teams - There's not a lot of special emphasis on Pittsburgh's special teams, and that shows up in most of their stats. As in most other areas, the Steelers are above average in special teams on both sides of the ball, so there shouldn't be many surprises on kicks or returns, though both punter Jeremy Kapinos and place kicker Shaun Suisham joined the Steelers during the regular season.

Kapinos took over punting duties after Daniel Sepulveda went on the IR, and played in the last four games plus the post-season. While he wasn't as effective in either gross or net yardage, he's picked it up in the playoffs and shouldn't be regarded as a soft spot. Pittsburgh covers kicks well and won't doesn't often allow game-breaking returns, either on kickoffs or punts.

Suisham joined the Steelers in late November, as Jeff Reed encountered problems with accuracy. Suisham solved that, hitting 14 of 15 FG attempts, his longest being 48 yards. He may not have the strongest foot in the league, but he's reliable anywhere inside 50 yards.

Kick returns will be handled by either Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders, both of whom have blazing speed, so, if given a crease, could break off a long one. Brown will handle punts for the most part, though reliable Antwaan Randle El will probably be called upon when the ball is looking to be inside the 20-yard line, as he has years of experience and knows when to field the ball or let it go.

It doesn't appear that the Steelers will offer any tricks on special teams outside of wanting to down punts inside the opponents' 15, and they have players who are capable in that regard.


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Green Bay Special Teams - The Packers, like the Steelers, don't depend heavily on special teams, using regulars for both punt and kickoff returns, though they have a solid punter in Tim Masthay, who can directional kick or bang the long ball when needed. Masthay, who also is the holder on field goal attempts, put 25 punts inside the opposing 25-yard-line and seven inside the 10, with only five touchbacks.

Place-kicker Mason Crosby has been a mainstay with the Packers and is one of the most consistent kickers in the league, year in, year out. During the 2010 regular season, he knocked through 22 of 28 attempts and was 2-for-4 outside 50 yards with a long of 56. In a close game, coach Mike McCarthy won't hesitate to call on Crosby for a 50+ yard try. He also handles kickoff duties and generally will put the ball at or beyond the goal line.

Green Bay covers kicks quite well, though they have given up some long returns both in the playoffs and regular season. They'll have to be especially aware of Pittsburgh's speedy return guys to avoid giving up valuable field position.

Returning kicks is a matter more of possession than game-breaking. On punts, Tramon Williams gets the call, though he only averages about 9 yards per return. Sure-handed, he won't break many, but he also won't turn the ball over. Jordy Nelson and Sam Shields handle kickoff returns and neither has gone the distance this season. The Packers won't threaten on kickoffs, more content to hand the ball over to the offense.

Overall, Pittsburgh has a very slight edge in the return department, while the Packers have a superior punter and place-kicker in Masthay and Crosby.

Pittsburgh Coaching - Obviously, the Steelers are one of the best-coached teams in the league. Their level of success and post-season prowess are testimony to the ability and stability of the coaches, starting with Mike Tomlin, who, in just three seasons with the Steelers is entering his second Super Bowl.

Tomlin is the perfect Steeler head coach, a no-nonsense guy who doesn't take risks, relying on his players and coaches to manage games in the Steeler style, with discipline, hard-nosed play and a grinding offense.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians probably has the easiest job on the entire staff, and he's very consistent, calling runs when obvious and relying on Roethlisberger and his troops to execute crisply on offense. Here's another hard-nosed coach in the Pittsburgh, blue collar mode.

On defense, 73-year-old Dick LeBeau has seen it all and his work with the Steeler defense has earned him a rightful spot in the NFL Hall of Fame. LeBeau will dial up the occasional blitz, but he's better known for having the right players on the field and the correct defense called in almost any situation. There is probably no better or more complete coaching staff in the NFL today than then Steelers.


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Green Bay Coaching - Head coach Mike McCarthy has kept the Packers on track and improving in his four seasons, overseeing the departure of Brett Favre and the maturation of Aaron Rodgers. He's crafty and willing to take chances, admored by players and coaches alike for his dedication to the job and situational calls.

McCarthy will plan extensively, but isn't afraid to do something out of the ordinary to turn a game around. With his wily nature, the Packers will more than likely put in some new plays on offense and spritz up the defense as well.

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is probably the most underrated coach in the league. Though not always right, Philbin will make some risky calls if it means the Packers can break a big one. His reliance on Rodgers to execute in just about any situation means he can roll the dice if need be.

Dom Capers, the defensive coordinator has built the Packers into a solid, unforgiving defense which thrives on exotic blitz schemes and well-disguised defensive sets. Without a doubt, he is the key to Green Bay's success or failure against the Steelers as the Packer defense will have to adjust constantly and be aware of any minor changes in the Steeler offense. If his troops are as well-prepared as they usually are, Capers will find ways to disrupt Pittsburgh's plans.

As far as coaching goes, it's a draw. Pittsburgh has the edge in Super Bowl experience, but the Packers more than compensate with McCarthy and Capers. One way to gauge it is how well Green Bay's defense keeps the Steelers from doing what they want, though with the hard-headed attitude the Pittsburgh offense and coaches bring, they won't change them much.


INTANGIBLES - While it's unlikely that Super Bowl XLV will turn on a single play, fumbles and interceptions may play a large part in this game. Neither team turns the ball over much, especially the Steelers, who also have the experience edge, but linebackers Harrison and Woodley for Pittsburgh and A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews could potentially turn the tide by creating havoc in the backfield. Harrison had a huge play in the Steelers' win over Arizona a few years ago, and again, he appears to be the most disruptive player on the field.

In the secondary, Charles Woodson could provide a big play, especially when he's in a disguised defense.

Trick plays could also play a role, as Pittsburgh has used gadgets, especially with veterans Antwaan Randle El and Hine Ward, who both can put the ball in the air. Green Bay could devise a reverse or two to upset the balance or have Rodgers on the run, as he's faster than most linebackers and will do just about anything to win.

The Steelers have that great experience upon which to draw, and the Packers will have to match their intensity right from the opening kickoff. Both teams have been known to air it deep early on, so the defenses should be prepared for early offense.

This is somewhat of an even match-up, though one wonders how the Steelers feel about being 2 1/2-point underdogs. That could be enough for added motivation in the locker room and on the field.

Of all the intangibles, Aaron Rodgers is probably the biggest. He has demonstrated extraordinary talent and can really zip the ball. If he gets hot and the Steelers aren't able to rattle him, there's no telling what could occur.

All times Eastern

Offense/Defense/Stats | Special Teams, Coaching, Intangibles | Final Analysis, Picks and Props

Copyright 2010, 2011, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.

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