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Pain and Suffering in Dallas

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Here’s a prediction for Super Bowl XLV: Pain and suffering. The loved ones of quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers may want to hide their eyes when the Steelers and Packers collide at Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl XLV.

Roethlisberger was sacked 40 times in 14 games on the way to his third Super Bowl in seven seasons.

Rodgers, with a sore shoulder in his present and two concussions in his past this season, was sacked 36 times in 19 games.

On the other side are two vicious defenses. The Steelers led the league during the regular season with 48 sacks and a seemingly like number of fines for stepping out of line; the Packers tied for second with 47.

That’s the painful part. The suffering may be only mental. The Packers are second with 24 interceptions, the Steelers fifth with 21. This game may set a Super Bowl record for disgusted looks by quarterbacks as they trudge off the field.

But here is what makes this matchup so intriguing and trying to pick a winner so maddening:

The last time these teams met, during the 2009 regular season, the quarterbacks combined for 886 passing yards and the Steelers won, 37-36, on a cold, windy day at Heinz Field.

There’s no telling where the numbers will soar in a game played on a dry track, with no wind.

Super Bowl XLV is one of the most fascinating matchups in history, thanks to the tradition and history associated with two storied franchises.

The Steelers and Packers have played in a total 19 NFL championship games and Super Bowls, but they never have played each other in the postseason.

The Packers are playing for a trophy named after their legendary former coach, Vince Lombardi, and the Steelers have won more of them (six) than anyone.

The past will be a big part of the storylines, and you don’t have to go all the way back to 1936 when the Packers won their first championship game, defeating the Boston Redskins, 21-6, before 29,545 people at the Polo Grounds.

Just go back 11 months to Milledgville, Ga., where Roethlisberger celebrated his 28th birthday. You can bet the national sporting press will do so when its members descend upon Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Reporters will dig up the past like CSI units exhuming a corpse.

In all likelihood, Roethlisberger will avoid the questions expertly like he does oncoming pass rushers. He has done his best to shield himself from his own past, and that has as much to do with his success this season as any pass he has thrown.

He lives and thrives surrounded by the warmth of the team and teammates that supported him during allegations of sexual impropriety.

After the 24-19 AFC Championship game victory against the New York Jets, he was asked about looking back to the beginning of the season and his four-game suspension.

“I don’t. I don’t,” he said. “I’ll stop you now. I don’t. Not at all.”

When asked to compare this Super Bowl berth with the first two, he sounded cavalier about the past.

“Shoot, any time you get to the Super Bowl it feels good,” he said. “I don’t care what you’re going through or what is going on.

“We put a lot of stuff behind us early and found a way to get it done.”

Roethlisberger, of course, didn’t say if he was referring to Milledgville or injuries to his teammates that also threatened to sabotage the season.

Roethlisberger isn’t callous enough to think both events are equally disturbing, but the point is this:

He has put everything behind him and focused on the present, and that’s why the Steelers are preparing to play in their eighth Super Bowl, their third since they drafted their franchise quarterback.

Which brings us back to the need here to pick a winner in Super Bowl XLV.

The Packers probably won’t be able to run the ball effectively or protect Rodgers well enough to allow him to torture the Steelers’ secondary.

The Steelers may have a problem dealing with the Packers’ defense that has allowed 20 or fewer points in 14 of 19 games, including a shutout of the New York Jets. Six of 11 players were either named to the Pro Bowl or picked as alternates, including All-Pro outside linebacker Clay Matthews (14 sacks).

Splash plays on defense by both teams will decide the outcome.

Steelers 28, Packers 27.

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