As I'm tweaking my last minute predictions for the Super Bowl, there are two concerns I have: Pouncey's replacement at Center, and Chad Clifton's replacement at Left Tackle (if he struggles or gets hurt). First, some interesting notes I found on the Steelers' backup (and now starting) Center, Doug Legursky:
Backup C/G Doug Legursky will make his fifth start of the season, but Sunday's game will be the first at center for the third-year player. However, he was a four-year starter at center during his college days at Marshall University.
His first game as a Center? Eesh. At least the Steelers had two full weeks to make this adjustment. Pittsburgh's former OLine Coach, Larry Zierlin, commented on the level of dropoff from Pouncey:
[Legursky]'s a good football player... I think [Raji] would be a tough matchup for Pouncey, Olin Kreutz or any center. But just because Doug is in there doesn't mean Raji will run all over him...Raji is a tough matchup for anyone, he's very strong, no doubt, but Doug can handle himself quite well. I think a lot of people will be surprised with him.
Pouncey is listed as 6'4, 304 lbs whereas Legursky is 6-1, 315 lbs. Not much of a loss there size-wise. I spoke with Brandon, the lead Editor for the SBN Packers blog, Acme Packing Company, and he had this to say on the health, depth, and expectedness of the Packers two Tackles:
Chad's going to play. He did take a shot in the NFC Championship game, but he came back later at his usual level. He's one of those veterans that's never going to get over the nagging aches and pains (such as his surgically repaired knees). There is a big drop off to T.J. Lang, more due to lack of experience then talent, if that were to happen.
They're going to try and block Harrison and Woodley one-on-one. Obviously that's subject to change, but Clifton's seen every move possible by this point in his career, and Bulaga's been much better during the playoffs. I expect they'll be more concerned with keeping in one back and possibly a tight end to help on the corner and safety blitz.
It will be a chess match, but Aaron Rodgers is good at reading the defense and calling an audible when needed. And McCarthy trusts him. In the end, the key won't be the play calling by either coach, but the systems they've installed that give players enough flexibility to react and outplay the other.
As I said before, I simply can't bet against Dick LeBeau and the Steelers defense.