I don’t think anyone can argue that Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews is one of the best defensive players in the league.
He’s one of the NFL’s top pass rushers, he can completely disrupt opposing offenses and he has to be game planned for. That being said, he’s not the greatest run-stuffing linebacker, even on his own team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers ran at Matthews with a good degree of success in Super Bowl XLV.
“He doesn’t want to take on the run,” Pittsburgh running backs coach Kirby Wilson told running back Isaac Redman before the game. “He’s a pass-rush specialist. He wants to pass rush Mike Vick. He wants to pass rush Matthew Stafford. … We’re going to keep pounding and make this guy quit.”
I doubt anyone’s going to make Matthews quit, but Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall gained 66 yards running to Matthews’ side in the Super Bowl. He totaled 63 yards on the day, netting zero to the left and negative three up the middle.
Those are pretty telling statistics.
Matthews, of course, made one of the biggest plays of the game when he forced a Mendenhall fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, ending a Steelers’ drive at the Packers’ 33.
You could argue the Steelers went to the well one time too often or that a playmaker will eventually make a play, given enough opportunities.
That doesn’t change the fact Matthews was exposed in the running game, at least on this occasion. The Steelers pull their guard and center often and those big boys neutralized Matthews.
That seems to be the blueprint for running on the Packers. It will be interesting to see how they work to combat that and whether they do it through personnel or schematically.