Pittsburgh (14-4) vs. Green Bay (13-6)
Time: 3 p.m. Sunday
Line: Packers -2½ Total: 45
TV/RADIO: Fox (5), KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)
■ Weather: Indoors
■ Facts: This marks the 21st time in Super Bowl history a head coach with an NFL title on his resume (Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin) faces a coach without one (Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy). The guys with the rings are 15-5, but only 3-4 the previous 14 seasons. … Steelers rookie Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (high ankle sprain) won’t start. His replacement is second-year man Doug Legursky. … Green Bay rookie RB James Starks, who rushed for only 101 yards during the regular season, leads all playoff rushers with 263 yards at 3.8 per carry. … Pittsburgh’s top-rated rush defense has faced eight 1,000-yard rushers and allowed them a cumulative 2.8 yards per carry on 142 runs. Conversely, Green Bay has gone against six 1,000-yard men and allowed 4.5 yards per carry on 137 touches. The Packers will be facing their seventh in Rashard Mendenhall (1,273 yards). … Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, seeking his third ring, had a season-worst 35.5 passer rating in the 24-19 AFC title game victory over the Jets. He was worse in a Super Bowl victory over Seattle five seasons ago with a 22.5 reading. But that’s nothing: In the 1948 NFL title game, Eagles QB Tommy Thompson had a 0.0 mark in a 7-0 victory over the visiting Cardinals. … Green Bay’s most lopsided loss this season was 31-27 at New England, the one game QB Aaron Rodgers missed (concussion). Yet the Packers dominated possession, running 80 plays to the Patriots’ 43. Pittsburgh’s biggest loss also was to New England, 39-26. … With standout safety Troy Polamalu (probable, Achilles) in the lineup the past two seasons, the Steelers are 17-4, but without him they are 6-7 — including a 37-36, last-second victory over the Packers last season at Pittsburgh. In that meeting, Roethlisberger became the 10th passer to exceed 500 yards in a game (503). … Pittsburgh is second in the league with 32 possessions starting in enemy territory. Chicago was first with 43, but had no short fields in its 21-14 NFC title-game loss to Green Bay. … The Super Bowl over/under total is the lowest in the past seven years. But no total was this high in a Super Bowl until XVI. … In nine of 10 games this postseason, the team with the better defensive passer rating in the regular season won. Green Bay’s unit was ranked No. 1, Pittsburgh No. 2.
■ Analysis: With Pittsburgh’s Legursky at center, it’s not like the Steelers’ engine will belch to a stop. He was in the starting lineup at right guard for Games 3-6 when Pittsburgh went 3-1 and scored 12 offensive touchdowns. Four came on consecutive possessions while fourth-string QB Charlie Batch was in charge against Tampa Bay. Last week, after Legursky replaced the injured Pouncey, the Steelers totaled 181 yards of production their next three possessions and scored a TD and field goal. Plus, he’s had the past two weeks to practice with the No. 1 guys.
A key for the Packers’ offense, meanwhile, will be their ability to budge the Steelers’ run stoppers. And even if Rodgers, the league’s third-ranked passer, has a fabulous day, there’s no guarantee his arm will open running avenues for Starks. For instance, New Orleans’ Drew Brees passed for 300-plus yards in a 20-10 victory over the Steelers at midseason, but the Saints still gained only 30 rushing yards on 21 carries.
Lastly, there’s the Super Bowl experience factor. Rodgers is making his first title-game start, but he surely knows that over the previous nine seasons, newbie Super QBs have come out on top of veteran champions three times, including Eli Manning’s victory with the Giants three years ago over Tom Brady’s unbeaten Patriots. But even if the Packers get off to a good start and take a lead into the final 15 minutes, the Steelers no doubt will be quick to remind them how they blew four fourth-quarter leads this season away from Lambeau Field. Thus, there’s a good chance Super Bowl know-how will help the underdog Steelers keep their cool and pull out another title and keep the Packers from becoming the second sixth seed to win it all (Pittsburgh 2005).
■ Forecast: Steelers 34, Packers 20
CONFERENCE FINALS: 2-0 vs. spread; 2-0 straight up
SEASON TOTAL: 137-122-7 (.529) vs. spread; 158-108 (.594) straight up