The Super Bowl’s most compelling storyline is the contrasting worlds of Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. The squeaky-clean Packers quarterback calls the Bible his favorite book and leads the team in pregame prayers. Roethlisberger was nearly dropped by the Steelers following accusations of sexual assault on a 20-year-old college student at a Georgia nightclub last spring.
Pittsburgh fans added to his woes with a rash of tales of boorish behavior around town. Sure he has appeared contrite after returning from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, but maybe winning a third Super Bowl will rekindle that less-than-savory side of Big Ben, who apparently takes the old adage “to the victors go the spoils” to a dangerous extreme.
Meanwhile, Rodgers has not only guided Green Bay to five straight must-win victories, he is now the NFL’s career pass rating leader with the all-time lowest interception rate. Not bad for a kid without a single scholarship offer coming out of Chico’s Pleasant Valley High School.
After a 10-1 season with the Butte College Roadrunners, Rodgers was recruited to Cal by coach Jeff Tedford who told me last week, “I knew he’d be All-Pro the first time I saw him. Unlike elite quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Rodgers brings an added dimension. He’s able to run and make plays with his legs,” said Tedford. The quarterback’s former coach also called Rodgers, “Really smart and with great tools around him — he knows how to utilize them.”
Curiously, before the 2005 draft, some NFL teams thought Rodgers was too mechanical and didn’t have a strong arm. Tedford acknowledges Rodgers held the ball higher in college but adds, “His motion is so tight. He has plenty of zip on the ball. He’s a great deep-ball thrower with good footwork and a winning mentality. Some of the prognosticators misevaluated him.” 49ers?
A closed roof at Cowboys Stadium helps the Packers because Rodgers is the NFL’s premier passer in indoor games over the past three seasons while his 71 percent career playoff completion rate is the best in league history.
Although growing up a Joe Montana fan, Rodgers solicited advice from Steve Young on how to follow a legend and deal with the pressures of a Super Bowl. Tedford said
Rodgers couldn’t have handled the Brett Favre situation any better. Young told him to stick to his regular-season routine.
Aaron noted that eight of the past nine Super Bowl winners won the turnover battle. In Rodgers and Roethlisberger’s only head-to-head meeting back in Pittsburgh, in December 2009, Big Ben was
29-for-46 for a club-record 503 yards. His third touchdown pass came on the final play, giving the Steelers a 37-36 win over the Packers. Rodgers was 26-for-48 with 383 yards, while throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another score. Neither team had a turnover.
In the tale of the tape for Super Sunday, Aaron gets the edge in passing accuracy and elusiveness. Roethlisberger is stronger, more experienced and just as creative on the run. The most notable advantage for Roethlisberger is his size. He can take a pounding and rarely goes down. After watching Rodgers lose his rhythm after taking a vicious hit from Julius Peppers in the NFC Championship game, you know the Steelers will sell out to get the knockout punch.
Then again, Pittsburgh’s frequently fined linebacker James Harrison spoke Tuesday about gently tackling the Packers and maybe putting a pillow under their head so they can have a soft landing. Somebody hand him a Terrible Towel to wipe that sarcastic smirk off his face.
KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.