Without starting C Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers lose the anchor of the line, and their emotional leader up front. Legursky not only has to replace a strong second-level blocker, but he must prepare for a team that does a lot of pass rush damage between the center and right guard. Legursky is responsible to identify the Packers' stunting blitz scheme, and help pick Matthews up when he rolls off Raji to Legursky's lane.
Like most pass rushers he faces, Adams will have a large size advantage over Matthews, but the Packers' second-year stud plays in a scheme that suits his explosiveness well. Matthews is more disruptive when he stunts inside because Raji occupies space and blockers well, and frees up openings for linebackers to blow plays up. He will force the inexperienced Legursky to commit, testing his discipline. Matthews will find an opening to the passer if he doesn't stay true to his assignment.
Woodley had perhaps the quietest outstanding game of conference championship weekend. While he did notch a sack in his sixth consecutive post-season game – an NFL record – his batted pass at the goal line and two tackles for minimal and no gain against the Jets were huge in the victory. Woodley has become one of the Steelers' best post-season performers, and he will look to seal off the defensive left edge, keeping mobile QB Aaron Rodgers in the pocket.
Bulaga struggled through much of his rookie season, giving up a team-high 13 sacks, and 28 pressures, the second-highest total on the team. The rookie has improved noticeably over the Packers' last five games, but his sub-par performances in run blocking and pass protection against the 3-4 defenses he's faced (the Jets and Cowboys in particular) seems to favor Woodley. The Steelers may look to bring pressure over RG Josh Sitton in efforts to force a 1-on-1 match-up between Woodley and Bulaga.
FS Ryan Clark vs. QB Aaron Rodgers
The Packers offense will go as far as Rodgers takes them. And he's done a pretty good job so far. He hasn't faced a pass rush like the Steelers this year, but his decision-making has been nearly flawless for most of the playoffs. Cracks in his perfect image appeared in the second half against Chicago in the NFC Championship Game, but his first half was excellent. This was mostly due to poor coverage by FS Danieal Manning. Rodgers picked on him in deeper routes toward the middle of the field early and often, staking the Packers to a quick 14-0 lead.
That's the same area Clark loves to roam and defend. He's far more physical than Manning is, and Clark was on the field when the Steelers were abused by Rodgers last season. This time around, Rodgers will try for big plays early, likely spreading the field and trying to force Clark into a decision on coverage. The key for Clark is to remain disciplined and to keep the bevy of speedy receivers on the Packers in front of him. He'll also likely look to lay a few big hits early, establishing the Steelers physical mentality on Green Bay.
Obviously, Roethlisberger knows this stage. He's taken advantage of his third trip to the Super Bowl to make it clear to everyone that he's about winning, not about stats. He's said many times he'll never win a league MVP or a passing title, but an argument can be made he's one of the most valuable players in the league. His ability to identify the Packers' confusing coverage packages will be a key to this game. Green Bay has a ball-hawking secondary, led by Woodson, and they're able to blitz or drop into coverage equally between all of their defensive sets.
The catalyst to that is Woodson, the versatile former Defensive Player of the Year. Look for Green Bay to blitz defensive backs consistently in this game, and when Woodson isn't the one coming, he's moving immediately to the hot receiver. That mentality has led to 30 interceptions in his five years in Green Bay. Woodson will line up all over the field in different situations, and Roethlisberger will have to identify him every play.