Dig in Deeper: Pittsburgh against Elite QBs this season

Media outlets are quick to point out that Aaron Rodgers will not carve out Pittsburgh’s secondary as he did easily against the Eagles, Falcons and Bears. Rodgers was masterful in making their defenses look foolish on blitzes. He’ll have to come up big this Sunday for the Packers to have a chance. It’s encouraging for him because the Steelers aren’t what they seem to be against elite QBs this season.

Pittsburgh faced three elite QBs this season in Matt Ryan (Yes, I consider him elite. 1. Because Ryan played good enough early in the season that he merited all the elite QB talk. 2. It was the season and not the playoffs. Ryan can start, but can’t finish – just like Peyton Manning), Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

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Tom Brady

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Here’s the breakdown.

Week 1 against Matt Ryan: 27 of 44 for 252 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks

Ryan didn’t play well during this game, but was good enough to move Atlanta into field goal range. Steelers still edged the Falcons, 15 – 9.

Week 8 against Drew Brees: 34 of 44 for 305 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks

Brees turned the ball over twice – an interception and a fumble – but managed to throw two touchdowns in the final quarter to put the game out of reach. New Orleans prevailed, 20 – 10.

Week 10 against Tom Brady: 30 of 43 for 350 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 0 sacks.

Brady lit up Pittsburgh’s secondary and hung 39 points on ‘em. He also scored a rushing TD. Big Ben Roethlisberger matched him with three touchdowns, but his lone interception proved costly for the Steelers.

Elite QBs like Ryan, Brady and Brees averaged a 95.3 QB rating, 69.5 completion rate, and 302.33 pass yards against the Steelers this season. The trio totaled six total touchdowns and two turnovers. The Steelers sacked them only four times.

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Quarterback Peyton Manning

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The Packers have only one way to win this Sunday and it’s not by establishing the run game. It’s by throwing the ball. Notice the attempts above. They’ve all reached somewhere in the 40’s. The strategy for the Packers should be simple. Throw early to score early and force Pittsburgh to attempt more passes than intended.

The thing is, unlike the Baltimore game in the first half, you need an elite QB to get the job done. A clutch QB who can outgun Big Ben. Rodgers can do that. Joe Flacco couldn’t outgun Big Ben in the fourth quarter of their divisional match-up and that’s why Baltimore lost. Rodgers has to stay in rhythm until the very end to outlast any comeback Roethlisberger has up his sleeve.

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