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SI.com – Big Plays the Reason the Steelers Will be in Super Bowl XLV


The big play ability of the Steelers seems to be on the mind of a lot of people that are sizing up the matchup between the Steelers and Jets Sunday in the AFC Title game. Sports Illustrated’s Kerry Byrne gives his reason for his choice of it being the Steelers and Packers battling it out for the Lombardi Trophy in Dallas. Here’s just a peek at one of his four reasons the Steelers will win:

4. The Pittsburgh roster is filled with game-breaking play-makers. The Steelers are not the prettiest team in football. And Pittsburgh fans certainly like it that way. But the Steelers have game-breaking playmakers all over the field — beyond Roethlisberger and Polamalu.

Safety Ryan Clark produced a pair of huge game-changing big plays in the third quarter of the Ravens game last week, forcing two turnovers that led to Pittsburgh touchdowns.

James Harrison proved his playmaking chops back in the 2008 championship season. He was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year and his 100-yard pick-six against Kurt Warner was the biggest play of Super Bowl XLIII. He brought the heat again on Sunday, sacking Flacco three times.

Receiver Mike Wallace, meanwhile, might be the best “Big Play” receiver in football today. Wallace this year became just the fifth player since the AFL-NFL merger to catch 60 or more passes and average 21.0 yards or more per reception. Meanwhile, unheralded rookie receiver Antonio Brown entered Pittsburgh’s playmaking pantheon with his 58-yard reception on 3rd and 19 against Baltimore on Sunday.

These aren’t isolated incidents. ColdHardFootballFacts.com tracks each team’s Big Play capabilities on what we call, conveniently enough, the Big Play Index. Pittsburgh finished second on the indicator, at +28. The Jets, by the way, were No. 3 at +23. (Of course, New England was No. 1 this year with a bullet (+41) and that advantage didn’t help them last week.)

Pittsburgh will win Sunday because it will make more big plays than the Jets.

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Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. DrGeorge

    January 21, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Once again, SI has a firm grasp of the obvious. SI is interested in selling magazines, not in analyzing football well. So they celebrate the superficial.

    In reality, ‘big plays’ are the glitz that astounds the uninformed public, like chrome on a Cadillac. Football games are won by much more mundane accomplishments: pressure on the QB, the ability to run the ball when needed, the play of special teams, the number of turnovers and penalties committed, the ability of a defense to dominate. The team that can produce in these areas will win, with or without big plays.

    Pittsburgh fans are very knowledgable. We know that when Harrison plants a QB, or Pouncey flattens a middle linebacker, or the Defense stuffs a 4th and one, that those are ‘big plays,’ every bit as big as a TD pass. Football is and will always be a team game. Victory hinges on doing a lot of little things well. Big plays happen because of the hard and dirty work beforehand that makes them possible.

    Yes, the Steelers have “game-breaking play-makers.” So do the Jets. But a lot of ‘big name’ “game-breaking play-makers” will be watching the game on TV this Sunday, spectators like the rest of us, because they play for teams that lack the necessary substance and attention to detail. Substance, not glitz, distinguishes the four teams remaining in the playoffs from the rest of the NFL.

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