Question of the day: Which one player is the key to winning Sunday's Super Bowl?
Writers from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
Tell me how the Packers do at stopping Rashard Mendenhall, and I think I can tell you who wins this game. If the Steelers are able to establish a running game and control the clock with Mendenhall, as they did against the Jets in the AFC Championship game, they stand a very good chance of winning. Mendenhall scored 78 points this season, becoming the first Steelers running back to lead the team in scoring since Franco Harris in 1977. Establishing the run would also allow the Steelers to force extra Green Bay defenders to the line of scrimmage, opening the door to more passing opportunities. Green Bay certainly knows how to play the run. The Packers have allowed an average of 69.7 yards rushing in the postseason, second to Pittsburgh’s 52.5.
David Haugh, Chicago Tribune
Expect the man who made the play that ultimately provided the Packers the game-winning touchdown in the NFC Championship game to make the most difference in Super Bowl XLV. Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji, whose fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown against the Bears paved the road to Dallas, can’t wait to exploit perhaps the Steelers’ only weakness. The Steelers likely will be without starting rookie Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who has a high ankle sprain and possible fracture. Replacement Doug Legursky could be making his first start at the position in the biggest game of his career. If the Packers stop the run –- the only perceived soft spot of Dom Capers’ defense in 2010 –- the Steelers will become more one-dimensional and Ben Roethlisberger’s pass-first mentality will play right into Capers’ attacking zone-blitz plan. That process starts with Raji, an increasingly dominant force in the middle who is such a good athlete the Packers have lined him up at fullback on short-yardage downs.
[Updated at 11:14 a.m.
Ken Murray, Baltimore Sun
Because it's a game ruled by quarterbacks, and because Ben Roethlisberger has been there twice before with success, I'll stay with the obvious and pick the Steelers' quarterback.
It won't be easy in the face of the Packers' attack defense and the blitzing prowess of Clay Matthews. But my expectation is that with center Maurkice Pouncey or without him -- or any other configuration in the Steelers' offensive line -- Roethlisberger's ability to extend a play and make the defense pay will make the difference.
Arizona had the Steelers beaten in the Super Bowl two years ago, but an amazing throw by Roethlisberger and an amazing catch by Santonio Holmes denied a Cardinals' victory. It could come down to the same amazing finish on Sunday.
Nick Fierro, The Morning Call
Football has never been and never will be about one player. But if I have to pick one, I’m going with Steelers play-making safety Troy Polamalu. He's been hard to figure this season. Either he's hit a wall at age 29 or was just too dinged to be his normal self. Either way, he's lost a step. If he gets it back, he'll be involved in at least one game-changing turnover that will flip the momentum the Steelers' way for good. If he doesn't, the Packers' deadly passing game will be significantly more difficult to solve, which would mean an almost certain Green Bay victory. But since I believe this will be a low-scoring game, it could turn into a placekicking contest as well. Either way, this is for amusement purposes only.]
Photo: Rashard Mendenhall. Credit: Keith Srakocic / Associated Press