Key Match-ups: Steelers-Packers

Neal Coolong examines the key match-ups in today's game between the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.

WR Santonio Holmes vs. CB Charles Woodson

Two of the best at their positions, and a game in which both teams need these alphas to step up, big time. Much like the Steelers' receivers match-up with Nnamdi Asomugha, it's difficult to even challenge Woodson, but Holmes has been the Steelers' consistent offensive playmaker during a brutal stretch of five losses.

Holmes will have to avoid Woodson's press at the line and focus on the ball when it is in the air. Woodson plays the pass extremely well, and knows how to clutch and grab without drawing many penalties.

FS Ryan Clark and SS Tyrone Carter vs. QB Aaron Rodgers

Clark did plenty of talking about Pittsburgh media this week, and Tyrone Carter didn't appear to do enough playing in the Steelers' most recent loss. With a deep secondary reeling due to multiple reasons, it's a good bet Rodgers is going to come after the Steelers via air, land and sea. Rodgers is a good improvisational passer, but holds onto the ball too long. If Clark and Carter can help provide over-the-top help, Pittsburgh's pass rushers will overwhelm a mediocre-at-best Packers offensive line.

Rodgers' eyes will be fixated on the two safeties, though, and will look to land the deep ball, if the weather permits such a strategy. With 25 touchdowns this season, and a 65.5 percent completion percentage, Rodgers is making a strong bid for an NFC Pro Bowl spot.

C Justin Hartwig vs. NT B.J. Raji

Hartwig had a forgettable performance against Cleveland, as the Steelers allowed a season-high eight sacks. While no one on the line played particularly well, Hartwig was eaten up all game, and continues a long streak of subpar performances. If Pittsburgh hopes to control the clock and keep Rodgers off the field, Hartwig is going to have to step up.

Packers' starting NT Ryan Pickett missed last week's win over Chicago, and is questionable to return this game. Raji, a rookie, has come on the past few weeks, and has been a part of Green Bay's five-game winning streak. In particular, Raji has helped hold the line of scrimmage, which is a big part of why they've allowed only 40 points in their past three games – all wins.

CBs Ike Taylor and William Gay vs. WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver

The motif of teams playing Pittsburgh this year has been "throw at the corners." Both Taylor and Gay are in the top five in the league in targets, and no pair of defensive backs have been thrown at more often. This is a tough match-up for them, considering how balanced both Jennings and Driver are, and how either one is capable of any route at any distance on any down.

Jennings and Driver have more than 1,700 yards receiving between them, with nine touchdowns. With a hot quarterback, look for both of them to be prominently involved in the offense's game plan, and high numbers are expected for both.

The Coolong Scorecard
Steelers Unit Packers
  Quarterback x
  Running backs x
x Offensive line  
even Wide receivers even
x Tight ends  
  Defensive line x
x Linebackers  
  Defensive backs x
  Special teams x

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