Red Zone League Articles

Superbowl XV
By Kurt Ison
Special to rzl-football.com

SUPERBOWL XV
Pittsburgh Steelers V Carolina Panthers



The most important game of the season is upon us and two teams have made it. Representing the AFC for the second time is the Pittsburgh Steelers and for the NFC we have the Carolina Panthers for the third time. Both teams representing their respected conference in 2011, when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Carolina Panthers 44-37 in St.Louis in SBVI.

The first overall pick in 2011 was cornerback Marcus Brown, now thirty-one years old. Pittsburgh went 11-5 with only five rushing touchdowns, supplemented with forty-four through the air. Carolina went 12-4 and had the more balanced offence. Ben Rothlisberger faced off against Drew Stanton, Nate Illoa against Steve Slaton and Santonio Holmes matched against Jason Hill. Almost a decade on and most players from that game have well and truly moved on from the RZL.

Superbowl VI was as close as they come, both offences were able to move the ball and to cross the goal line. Roethlisberger combined with Holmes nine times for two hundred and thirty-four yards and four touchdowns, the Panthers offence also scored four touchdowns two each via the ground and air. Richard Marshall for Carolina and Will Blackmon for Pittsburgh both returned interceptions for over sixty yards each for touchdowns. However the Steelers fast start and strong finish proved the difference, they were crowned champions while the Panthers suffered their second Superbowl defeat in three years.



But some still remain, Pittsburgh defensive end Adrian Grady was a rookie in 2011 after being drafted in the second round. In his first season he got a ring and ten seasons on he is still a Steeler. Injured in week eight, he was put on the injured reserve and will watch the game from the sidelines. He was the rookie in the Superbowl VI and no doubt looked up to veterans and asked them questions, now in Superbowl XV the Steelers rookies will be asking him those same questions.

Some Panthers who remember the game where they came so close but fell short. Quarterback Drew Stanton was twenty-six years old when led his team all the way until they fell at the final hurdle. A decade on and he is still the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. However, at thirty-five he doesn't get up as easily from hits anymore. In week sixteen he was injured and his chance to lead a Superbowl winning team was in doubt, but his coaches have the option of putting him in and giving him the chance to jump that final hurdle and defeat the Steelers who stopped him last time.

There are also other players who still remain on their squads, for the Steelers punter Michael Hughes and tackle Heath Benedict. For the Panthers tackle Thaddeus Coleman and wide out Jason Hill.

Nine year on and the main factor why both these teams meet up again starts at the very top, their General Managers. Brian Brown has been a icon for the Steelers and is one of only a few teams to have maintained a single GM since the RZL's inception. The Steelers have always been a factor and have strung strong seasons year after year. With the retirement of Ben Rothlisberger many thought Pittsburgh might be out of the picture for a few seasons, they would only be down for one. Incredibly management and coaching has seen the Steelers barely skip a beat as they find themselves back on the big stage.

Carolina were a early powerhouse with two Super Bowl appearances in the early years they were always in contention. The rise of Tampa Bay in 2012 saw the Panthers fall into their shadow, but the Panthers are back to casting a shadow of their own once again. Keith Van Wagner has been the man in charge in Carolina since 2008 and has had tremendous success. Leading the team to two Superbowl appearances and falling short by the smallest of margins, a Superbowl ring would top off a stellar career.

Match-up

PIT | CAR

Total Offensive Yards Per Game
347.0 | 351.8
Pass + Rush
203.5 + 143.5 | 241.4 + 110.4

"Nine years ago the Steelers were all about the air, but now the offence isn't why they are here and the Panthers also got here on defence. A slight edge to the Panthers, but if Stanton is still suffering from his injury this could quickly turn to a heavy favour for the Steelers."

Total Yards Allowed Per Game
324.3.0 | 357.2
Pass + Rush
234.5 + 89.8 | 243.6 + 113.5

"The Steel Curtain surfaces here, they are a premier run stuffing defence and also do well against the pass. Carolina does a solid job, but they aren't quite the same as Pittsburgh. Steelers are the stronger defence."

Third Down Conversions - Offence
103 from 246 = 42% | 94 from 244 = 39%

"Very close, but the Steelers have got the slight edge here. Carolinas % may drop lower when they face a tough Steelers defence. Whichever teams can convert and keep their drives alive goes along way to winning."

Third Down Conversions - Defence
74 from 212 = 35% | 102 from 253 = 40%

"More proof of the more dominant Steelers defence. The Panthers will need to be at their best to convert consistently against them, advantage Steelers."

Red Zone Offence
60 Att for 30 TDs & 23 FGs = 88% | 59 Att for 30 TDs & 21 FG's = 86%

"Again, extremely close. No advantage to either team, both have the offence to find the goal line and both have the defence to keep the other out. Both offences are efficient in the red zone."

Red Zone Defence
44 Att for 18 TDs & 16 FGs = 77% | 58 Att for 31 TDs & 21 FG's = 90%

"This is the biggest gap between the teams, the Steelers have shown all season that once you get into the red zone their is plenty of work to be done to come away with points. On the other hand once you get inside Carolinas red zone it's a nine out of ten chance your coming away with something."

Injuries
DE Adrian Grady & CB Vontae Davis | QB Drew Stanton

"Pittsburgh are without Superbowl experience with Grady on the sidelines, his presence and talk could of been a big boost on the field. Davis is the real big loss, he is the premier corner in the Steelers line-up. They have the guys to cover him but they aren't as concerning for Carolina. Drew Stanton is fighting to be fit to play, he hasn't played since week sixteen and Blaine Gabbert has done great in his absence. But id be surprised if Stanton isn't out there, giving the Panthers the experience needed to win the big one."

Stats are only measures of previous attempts. This game will come down to who makes "that" play, the team who puts in the extra film work, the extra drills and simply who wants it more. The Pittsburgh Steelers know what it takes to be the Champions and they have already overcome a Carolina side in the big show. As for the Carolina Panthers they are zero from two attempts, a third loss isn't a option. They are hungry to finally clear that last hurdle and be crowned Superbowl Champions.

Whoever may win, be it the Brian Brown led Steelers or the Keith Van Wagner led Panthers. Enjoy the game, congrats on making it and for both having great success in the RZL. Congrats to all the General Managers who have been involved in another great season of the RZL. As the excitement of the off-season quickly approaches, sit back and enjoy the last game for the season. Best of luck to both teams, may the best team win.
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