Some early observations from the press box

ARLINGTON, Texas — Here are some quick observations/concerns as we get ready to start.

First concern I have is that there are only seven active offensive linemen for both teams. Very dangerous. A bad habit. Especially for the Pittsburgh Steelers who are already down to their backup center. There is a lot of pressure on the Steelers’ Tony Hills and Trai Essex. With a history of injuries on that line, they could be called on early.

Second thing, Green Bay has five receivers active with Brett Swain being the fifth, meaning they are ready for their spread set. I don’t think they will go to it early in the game, but they will use it to spread that Steelers defense out at some point.

The most surprising personnel move in the pregame is the deactivation of Packers LB Eric Walden. Frank Zombo will now start. Strange decision considering that all of those linebackers help out on special teams. I will pay close attention to the matchup of Steelers LT Jonathan Scott and Zombo.

Let’s talk about places to attack. The Packers won’t take long to go after the Steelers’ cornerbacks. I expect a lot of seven- and eight-man protections from the Packers. They are not going to let Aaron Rodgers get tagged with either a blitz or one of their great outside linebackers. For Green Bay, their No. 1 concern will be stopping the run early. The season stats say they are vulnerable. The postseason says they can do it. The Packers gave up 71 rushing yards in the postseason, but I expect a full dose of Rashard Mendenhall early.

Ben Roethlisberger‘s first challenge is where those Packers sacks come from. Not only do they have 10 in the postseason, they come from eight different players. Which suggests that Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has his scheme wired. It’s a bit easier for Rodgers, with only four different Steelers posting a sack in the postseason.

Toughest matchup to start this game: Steelers C Doug Legursky vs. Packers DT B.J. Raji. If Legursky needs help in the first two series, that spells big trouble for Pittsburgh. LaMarr Woodley has a favorable match against Packers rookie RT Bryan Bulaga. And as always, and it appears to be a favorable Steelers crowd, which will put some pressure on the Packers tackles with the additional noise.

As for Troy Polamalu, they have protected him the whole postseason. He has played a lot of off- and soft-coverages. Watching him warmup today, he looks like he’s ready to get back into his blitzing ways.

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