Defensive Line – B+
It is unusual in a 3-4 scheme to see one of the 3-down linemen finish a season with 7 sacks, much less two. But that is exactly what B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins managed to accomplish, finishing only behind linebacker sensation, Clay Matthews. Still, this D-line allows twice as many rushing yards(per game) as the Steelers’ front three.
Linebackers – B-
Matthews and Desmond Bishop are dominant at their positions, but A.J. Hawk and the loss of Nick Barnett early in the season have left this unit significantly weaker against both the run and the pass. If this unit cannot slow down Rashard Mendenhall or Heath Miller, Aaron Rodgers will have to score early and often to keep up.
Defensive Backs – A+
There is no better corner tandem than Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, right now. Throw in Sam Shields and Nick Collins and this secondary is better than Pittsburgh’s, overall. Keeping this game close or staying ahead is in the Steeler’s best interest. Just ask Michael Vick, Matt Ryan, and Jay Cutler.
Titan Sized Player to Watch:
Sam Shields (Nickel Defensive Back) –
Brought into Packer training camp as a kick and punt return specialist, Shields proved to have worse hands than Clifford Franklin. But, props to the Pack coaching staff and Shields for reinventing his role in the nickel. Shields will be tasked with shutting down Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown and that match-up will especially be key early in the game.
Overall Defense Grade – B+
This is a solid defense. But. If the Packers cannot establish an early lead or stop the Steeler rushing attack, this defenses’ weaknesses could very well bury Rodgers in a hole even he cannot climb out of in 60 minutes. Then again, maybe he can.