Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

Packer Report's Bill Huber and Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell conclude this series with the big matchups, keys to the game, reasons for victory and predictions. One of the big things to watch: Can the Packers contain and sack Ben Roethlisberger?

We conclude our three-part Behind Enemy Lines series with Jim Wexell, the publisher of Steel City Insider. If you missed Part 1, click here. If you missed Part 2, click here.


C Justin Hartwig vs. DL B.J. Raji: My assumption from afar is that Ryan Pickett will either not play or will be heavily rotated and therefore the Steelers' center will come off a terrible game and go up against the massive rookie. Hartwig had a difficult time with former Packers DT Corey Williams, so Raji could be an even bigger handful as the Steelers will be determined to crank out a running game after last's pass-happy debacle.

QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. OLBs Clay Matthews III and Brad Jones: It's one thing to get to the quarterback, but it's quite another to bring him down. At 241 pounds — or about 5 pounds more than Jones — tackling Big Ben is like chopping down a tree. Like defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Friday, hitting him up high isn't going to get it done. Just as important is keeping him in the pocket. Like counterpart Aaron Rodgers, Roethlisberger does a lot of his best work after breaking containment.


James Harrison sacks Brett Favre.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
LT Chad Clifton vs. LB James Harrison: Normally I'd choose Ike Taylor against the top wide receiver or even William Gay against one of the many Nos. 2 and 3 receivers the Packers have at their disposal, but if Harrison can whip Clifton off the edge, and it's very possible with a noisy home crowd at his sails, he would greatly aid the beleaguered Steelers secondary.

Skill players vs. secondary: As long as the Packers can protect Aaron Rodgers against what probably will be an aggressive game plan in this win-at-all-costs game, Green Bay should be able to pick apart the Pittsburgh secondary. William Gay has had a rough year at cornerback and Jermichael Finley is a huge mismatch for the Steelers' safeties.


I have an old theory that if you look at a point spread and say, ‘Why?', then you go with it. Like this: Why are the pass-defense deficient Steelers, with a five-game losing streak, favored over the pass-heavy Packers with a five-game winning streak? Don't ask why, just go with it. The Steelers have had a few extra days off, are living in an intensely agitated fishbowl of a football town (which the Packers can certainly understand), are officially down to their last strike, and are playing a team that doesn't need the game.   


Ryan Grant runs through the Bears.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
... they can run the ball at least a little against Pittsburgh's top-ranked rush defense. The Steelers' pass rush is so good that if the Packers have to chuck it on every down, then the outside linebackers will just attack, attack, attack off the edge. But if the Packers can keep some balance, slow down that rush and keep the safeties leaning forward instead of back, then Rodgers will have his way through the air. Oh, and the Steelers' special teams are horrible. Wouldn't it be something to see the Packers' maligned special teams make a game-changing play for a change?


While the intangibles add up, the matchup most certainly does not. The Steelers have blown fourth-quarter leads because they cannot stop other teams' passing attacks. This does not bode well for them against Aaron Rodgers and his receivers. Free safety Ryan Clark made either one of the ballsiest moves ever in blasting the fans and media before this game, or he made a miscalculation that'll make Anthony Smith's infamous guarantee before playing at undefeated New England pale in comparison.


... the God of the Odds is paying attention. The Packers have won five in a row. The Steelers have lost five in a row. Seriously, the disparity in talent between these teams is scant. If the Steelers — with a few extra days to rest and get ready after playing on Thursday — play with pride and purpose, they'll win. Assuming the Saints beat Dallas on Saturday, the Packers can clinch a playoff berth with a win on Sunday. Then again, they can clinch at home against Seattle, too.


Jim Wexell: Just because I've begun gearing into draft mode and calculating what losses will mean to the Steelers, they'll confound me and win a game that will put them back in the playoff hunt, because I know they'll beat Baltimore next week. Oh, and I'm certain after the win that my editor will assign me the Ryan Clark story after he forces the game-deciding turnover. It's just how these things tend to work out. 

Bill Huber (10-3): The Packers have to lose sometime. It might as well be this week, against an AFC foe in a game that will have no bearing on any end-of-season tiebreakers. The Steelers haven't won two Super Bowls in four years by being pushovers, and for one week at least, their immense pride will take over in a hard-hitting game. Steelers 20, Packers 17.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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