View Full Version : Green Bay Packers prepared to match Pittsburgh Steelers' physical style of play

01-29-2011, 10:48 PM
Green Bay Packers prepared to match Pittsburgh Steelers' physical style of play

By Pete Dougherty • pdougher@greenbaypressgazette.com • January 28, 2011

Going back to former coach Bill Cowher’s teams in the 1990s, and really to their “Steel Curtain” defenses of the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Steelers year-in and year-out carry the reputation among NFL lifers as one of the toughest and most physical teams in a tough and physical league.

It’s become the permanent identity of an elite franchise that’s going for its third Super Bowl title in the last six years. And it’s justified regarding this year’s Steelers, according to Mike Holmgren, the former Green Bay Packers coach who just finished his first season as president of the Steelers’ AFC North Division-rival Cleveland Browns.

“Physically, yeah, they get after it pretty good,” Holmgren said. “And they tackle. It’s a physical group. Now Green Bay strikes me — we didn’t play the Packers, we played them preseason — they strike me as the same type of team. They tackle, and they’re good at creating turnovers.”

Meeting and winning that physical challenge, then, will be paramount for the Packers in their matchup against the Steelers in the Super Bowl next week.

Offensively, the Packers are a passing team, and the Steelers have the NFL’s top-ranked run defense, so it’s hard to see the Packers winning there. But if the Packers prove unable to push around the Steelers’ front seven, they at least must handle the pass rush.

Defensively, though, the Packers think they can match any team in the NFL in tough, physical play. Their 3-4 scheme includes a personnel group they use against run-oriented teams on early downs and that features three huge defensive linemen — in essence three nose tackles in B.J. Raji (337 pounds), Ryan Pickett (340 pounds) and Howard Green (340 pounds).

“We love it, we get after people pretty good,” Pickett said of that grouping. “Pittsburgh deserves it, and that’s what we’re looking for, a reputation for rough, tough guys.”

The Packers also have two midseason replacements in their starting lineup in linebacker Desmond Bishop and safety Charlie Peprah who, though not as fast as the players they replaced (Nick Barnett and rookie Morgan Burnett), are more physical in defending the run, where the Steelers try to establish physical superiority.

“The physical part of the game, like a big hit on a hard tackle, is definitely overrated,” Bishop said, “but I can definitely send a message to them, and for us, that we don’t care how tough (they are), we’re going to bring it.”

The Steelers’ physical brand of football is an organizational commitment from the top down and includes an emphasis on running the ball well on the bad fields of the Pittsburgh winter.

The Steelers covet power halfbacks — 250-pound Jerome Bettis was their primary back from 1994 to 2004, and after going with 212-pound Willie Parker for three seasons, they’ve had 225-pound Rashard Mendenhall the last three years. One of their backups this season is Isaac Redman, a 230-pound rookie.

They also emphasize run blockers on the line and last spring became one of only five teams in the past decade to draft a center in the first round when they took Maurice Pouncey at No. 18 overall.

“I don’t think any team is going to run the ball without priding themselves on being physical,” Raji said.

But the Steelers’ physical reputation on offense is enhanced by other positions as well, notably quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Hines Ward.

Quarterback is an unusual position to contribute to a team’s physical identity, but Roethlisberger does it because he’s so big (6-foot-5, 241 pounds) and strong for the position. One of his greatest assets is keeping plays alive by shrugging off sacks that bring down most quarterbacks.

“(The physical style) shows up mainly in their blocking, you see a receiver downfield staying with his block,” Bishop said. “And you see Ben Roethlisberger fearless in the pocket.”

Ward, unlike Roethlisberger, has only OK size for his position (6-0, 205) but is a physical presence because of his ruthless mentality as a blocker. Ward is renowned — notorious in some circles — for aggressively blocking defensive backs up to the whistle and for crack-back type blocks in the open field against defensive backs and linebackers. In 2008, he ended Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers’ season with a jaw-breaking block.

Ward certainly carries a reputation around the NFL. A poll of players conducted by Sports Illustrated in 2009 chose him the league’s dirtiest player with 11.4 percent of the vote. Leading up to the AFC championship last week, New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie called Ward “dirty,” and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine ridiculed Ward by saying his players call him “the toughest guy in the league when nobody’s looking.”

Of the several Packers defensive players interviewed for this story, none agreed with those characterizations.

“He cracks hard,” Pickett said. “Legal hits. He plays hard.”

When asked if Ward crosses the line, Bishop said: “No, I don’t think so.”

On defense, the Steelers’ earned reputation for physical play comes from several places, starting with the NFL’s top-ranked run defense in fewest yards allowed and yards allowed per carry. The player best-known for violent play, though, is outside linebacker James Harrison, who had 10½ sacks this season and 45 over the past four years. Harrison, a smallish (6-0, 242) but explosive outside pass rusher, was fined four times for illegal hits this season for a total of $125,000.

“I think that’s just a guy doing his job,” Green said. “I’m a defensive guy myself, some of the (fined) plays I’ve seen, to me he was just playing hard.”

The Packers, in fact, seem determined not to suggest in any way the Steelers cross the line into dirty play because they’re unwilling to concede anything in the physical part of the game.

“We feel like we’re physical, teams that play us probably say the same thing,” Pickett said. “When you play physical, you play to our strength.”

((Ward) He cracks hard,” Pickett said. “Legal hits. He plays hard
(Harrison) “I think that’s just a guy doing his job,” Green said.

Gotta respect the Packers, they aren't whining losers like the SquealHawks, the Ratbirds, the Bungles, the Turdnials, or the CryBoys. The Pack knows how the game is supposed to be played. - mesa)

01-30-2011, 01:25 AM
They better be ready because we kick it up another notch. There's no doubt in my mind we are going to force this team to play at our level, which should bode well for us. I don't think Green Bay can out hit us. No way.

01-30-2011, 05:37 PM
The Steelers are by far the most physical team in the nation. The Packers offense has yet to show that they can take on a truly physical defense like Pittsburgh's. The problem, though, will be the hole that is left in Pittsburgh's offensive line with the absence of Pouncey. This is something that the Packers' D can and probably will take advantage of. This could lead to a very defensive game. This article that I found shows just how great of a match-up this really is.:


01-30-2011, 05:41 PM
Yes the Steelers are physical but were going to bring it. Were not disrespecting the Steelers at all. This is just business tell the game is over.

Atlanta Dan
01-30-2011, 05:45 PM
Everybody's got plans... until they get hit.

Mike Tyson

01-30-2011, 05:50 PM
anyone know what color jerseys we are wearing?

01-30-2011, 05:51 PM
anyone know what color jerseys we are wearing?


01-30-2011, 05:52 PM
anyone know what color jerseys we are wearing?

Steelers are in white again.

01-30-2011, 07:50 PM
NOT Breaking News:
Jets said the same thing.

Good luck with that.

01-30-2011, 08:02 PM
Everybody's got plans... until they get hit.

Mike Tyson

So true... If the packers want to hang with the Steelers in this area, 2 wks is not enough time to catch up...

01-31-2011, 12:51 AM
I don't know if anyone has mentioned this but there were 5 games that Rodgers and the Packers offense really struggled:

vs Jets
vs Lions
vs Bears x 3

Anyone notice the common theme among these defenses? they are physical. The lions are clearly the weak link of the 3. In the 2nd game against the Lions Rodgers got knocked out. But don't ignore the results of that game. I watched that game. They Lions played one of their more physical games and shut down the Packers offense. Rogers was 7/11 and 46 yards and an INT in the 1st half. He left with less then 2 minutes remaining in the 1st half. The story of that game was just how physical the Lions front 7 was. They took it to the Packers....with and with out Rogers.

We all know how physical the Jets can be, especially their secondary. The bears are also a physical team. Rogers threw for over 300 yards against the Bears in their first match up back in Sept. and the Packers lost. In the next two games in Jan. Rogers really struggled to move the ball. Even in that playoff game. If the Bears offense could have done anything positive in the 1st half they probably win that game.

I really think the Bears and Jets showed that you can slow down this Packers offense. The lions showed that if you punched them in the mouth they will struggle.

The Packers did struggle to score points against the Redskins in week 5, but that game was a little odd. The Packers did wrack up some yardage. It was a game of missed opportunities and mistakes for the Packers. McNabb had his way with the GB defense. That game seemed to be more of a fluke.

The Packers did also lose to Atl and Miami. Both teams play a physical style. Rodgers did put up some yardage in those games, but he struggled to get it in the endzone.

Point is, Rodgers and the Packers offense can be slowed down enough to win. You just need to score points, keep Rodgers on the side line as much as you can, and eliminate the big plays from Rogers and Jennings. Do that and you should win.

Dino 6 Rings
02-01-2011, 12:04 AM
Everybody's got plans... until they get hit.

Mike Tyson

One of my all time favorite quotes!

The more violent team will win.
WE are the most VIOLENT Team in the NFL

02-01-2011, 12:50 AM
I expect a great effort from the Packers, but they will not play as physical as we do.

02-01-2011, 01:27 AM
As long as our O line holds up I think we will be fine.

02-01-2011, 11:16 AM
Didn't the jets intend on matching our physical style of play too? Just sayin!

02-01-2011, 01:36 PM
So true... If the packers want to hang with the Steelers in this area, 2 wks is not enough time to catch up...

They might be able to hang ... for a while ... but not for 60 minutes. They will more than likely come out strong and play well for part of the game. My guess is that they won't be used to doing it for 60 minutes though.

02-01-2011, 02:17 PM
No matter how ready the Packers think they are, our Steelers are going to prove them wrong. We are the toughest team, and we will knock them down. Cant wait to see it happen!