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Aengus Moorehead

Saturday February 5th, 2010

Greetings Lasses and Lads

Super Bowl XLV is being billed as a battle between two classic franchises. But it's their ability to evolve that has the two clubs playing for the NFL championship once again.

The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers established themselves as NFL titans decades ago — Green Bay won the first two Super Bowls in the late-1960s; Pittsburgh won the first four of its record six championships in the mid-to-late '70s — with hard-nosed styles built on running the ball and playing tough defence. That those characteristics matched the two cities' blue-collar reputations only made them more appealing.

As these clubs prepare to meet in the Super Bowl for the first time, the Packers still conjure images of Vince Lombardi, the legendary taskmaster who bludgeoned opponents with the primitive Power Sweep on the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field. Their black-and-gold foes recall Jack Lambert's "Steel Curtain" defence, and the bruising running of Franco Harris or, more recently, Jerome Bettis. But times change, and so does football.

The ground-based wars of attrition of old have given way (with the help of rules changes) to a more intricate aerial game, and the ability of the Steelers and Packers to evolve has kept them among the NFL's elite. Green Bay won its third Super Bowl in 1997 with Brett Favre slinging passes downfield, and the Steelers' two most recent title runs, in 2006 and '09, were engineered by the daring Ben Roethlisberger.

This year's versions of the Steelers and Packers still play punishing defence (some things never go out of style), but the running game is now an afterthought in Green Bay and quickly fading in Pittsburgh, where the success of both teams hinges on a superstar quarterback — Roethlisberger for the Steelers and Aaron Rodgers for the Packers.

Those men — and the passing defences designed to stop them — will likely decide Sunday's game in Dallas, which I break down below:

Cheers!

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