The most compelling story line in the Packers' game Sunday at the Pittsburgh Steelers isn't that red-hot Green Bay (9-4) could clinch a playoff berth, or that badly slumping Pittsburgh (6-7) could be eliminated from postseason contention 10 1/2 months after winning the league title, or that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will be among family in his native Steel City.
Instead, what really jumps out -- and what could ultimately decide the outcome of the game -- is the presence of two defensive masterminds in the same venue. While the Steelers' Dick LeBeau will be scheming on the sideline, the Packers' Dom Capers will be plotting up high in the coaches' box.
To be sure, these guys have been on site together before, just a lot closer as coaching teammates once upon a time with the Steelers and in a different arena -- Three Rivers Stadium, which gave way to the contemporary Heinz Field.
McCarthy affectionately refers to Capers, whom he hired in January to overhaul a porous defense, as "old school."
"He's not the guy that is going to sit on the computer and punch out a bunch of printouts for you," McCarthy said. "He still writes everything out by hand. He has a method that he has done for so long and can jump up and pull the book off the shelf from 1995, and I appreciate that.
"He is just extremely detailed, and he writes everything out. We don't have enough highlighters for him, but we've invested in that because he has a certain method of how he highlights things. He's just extremely organized."
The method to Capers' highly effective madness -- the Packers rank in the top three in the league for total defense (No. 2), rush defense (No. 2) and pass defense (No. 3) -- includes the handprints of LeBeau. At 72 years old, 13 years Capers' senior, LeBeau must be "old, old school," by McCarthy's standards.
LeBeau and Capers are kindred spirits. They are Ohio guys who grew up about 100 miles apart. They wound up working side by side with the Steelers from 1992 to '94, when LeBeau was the secondary coach for the defense coordinated by the up-and-coming Capers. Thanks in part to the wisdom imparted by LeBeau, who previously was a defensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals, Capers turned Pittsburgh into "Blitzburgh" with an all-out, punishing 3-4 scheme.
"That's the beauty of the 3-4, is that you don't always know who's coming and where they're coming from," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
While Rodgers isn't resting easy this week as he prepares to face LeBeau's version of the "Blitzburgh" defense, which tops the league in run defense and is No. 4 in total defense amid the Steelers' late-season meltdown, Capers has become a mad scientist with his Green Bay charges.
He rolled out his self-titled "Psycho" package more than a half-dozen times in the Packers' 21-14 win at the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
To compensate for a shortage of healthy linemen, Capers hornswoggled the Bears' passing attack by surrounding only one down lineman (Cullen Jenkins) with five linebackers and five defensive backs.
"I think this is always a good time, that if you have some things that you haven't done because people have a lot of tape on you," Capers said. "Now, they've got 13 games on us; they certainly know a lot more about us now than they did when we started the season. We just felt that with our injury situation and the timing and being able to show them something we hadn't showed would help us in the game."
In case LeBeau was peeking in on the Steelers' offensive players as they watched game tape for the Packers this week, the exotic package undoubtedly looked familiar. Capers employed "Psycho" in his time with Pittsburgh in the early 1990s and in subsequent stops as an NFL head coach and defensive coordinator.
Elements of the disguise-oriented, walk-around look are staples in the 3-4 Steelers defense that LeBeau has led since 2004.
Which kindred spirit will have the upper hand Sunday remains to be seen, but Pittsburgh product McCarthy is glad to have Capers up in the Green Bay coaches' box.
"Our defense is in rhythm -- their play tempo, play speed -- and Dom is keeping his foot on the gas," McCarthy said. "There is a confidence; there is a trust there. I'm very pleased with the way we're playing on defense."
SERIES HISTORY: 32nd regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 18-13. The Steelers have dominated the series in the interconference opponents' irregular meetings the last 35 years, winning six of eight games. Pittsburgh has won the last two matchups dating to 1998, most recently 20-10 at Green Bay in 2005. The Steelers have won three in a row at home, going back to 1980. The Packers' last win in Pittsburgh was in 1970. This is the teams' first meeting at Heinz Field.