Chances are you’ll be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday (Feb. 6), what with all the ads people will be talking about and the Black Eyed Peas performing at halftime and a special, six-minutes-longer “Glee” airing afterward.
And, oh yeah, there’s a football game going on as well. We know that the Super Bowl has become about much more than large men throwing an oblong ball around, but the spectacle wouldn’t exist without the game. And the game, between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, has the potential to be very entertaining in its own right.
If you’re not a regular football watcher — and since the audience for Super Bowl XLV will be in the 100 million-viewer range, that’s got to be more than a few of you — here are a few things that might help you enjoy the stuff between the commercials.
History: Pittsburgh and Green Bay are two of the oldest and most successful teams in the National Football League. The Packers (so named because the Indian Packing company sponsored the team at the time of its founding) have been in the NFL since 1921, a year after the league was founded, and the Steelers (named after the steel mills that used to dominate Pittsburgh) began play in 1933. Green Bay has won the most championships (12) of any team in league history, including three Super Bowls. Pittsburgh has won six Super Bowls, more than any other team since the Super Bowl was inaugurated in 1967.
Uniforms: Both teams have pretty classic designs. The Packers are the designated home team on Sunday and will be wearing green jerseys and yellow/gold pants; their helmets are also yellow with a white “G” inside a green oval. The Steelers will be wearing white jerseys, also with gold pants; their helmets are black with the Steelers logo — but only on one side. Pittsburgh is the only team in the NFL whose logo is only on one side of the helmet.
The rules: Football is a rule-heavy game, but this site (from the U.K., which like most of the world plays a different kind of football) has a good rundown.
Key players: When the Packers have the ball, the key player is quarterback Aaron Rodgers (No. 12). He’ll be throwing most often to wide receivers Greg Jennings (No. 85) and Donald Driver (No. 80). Among the defensive Steelers trying to stop them will be linebackers James Harrison (No. 92) and LaMarr Woodley (No. 56) and safety Troy Polamalu (No. 43).
When the Steelers are on offense, QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 7) will be the man. Running back Rashard Mendenhall (No. 34) and receivers Hines Ward (No. 86) and Mike Wallace (No. 17) should also be big; also keep an eye on center Doug Legursky (No. 64), the man snapping Roethlisberger the ball. Legursky was a backup for most of the season but is starting Sunday because regular center Maurkice Pouncey is out with an injury. On defense for the Packers, look for Clay Matthews (No. 52), Charles Woodson (No. 21) and B.J. Raji (No. 90).
Pop-culture connections: Polamalu may be the most recognizable player on the field by virtue of his hair. He’s done a series of goofy-funny Head & Shoulders shampoo commercials. Roethlisberger made headlines last year, but not for a good reason; he was accused (charges were later dropped) of sexual assault in Georgia and suspended for the first four games this season. Rodgers has been rumored to be dating Jessica Szohr of “Gossip Girl,” but it’s never really been confirmed.
Cheerleaders: There won’t be any there on Sunday, because the Packers and Steelers are two of six NFL teams that don’t have a cheer squad (the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns are the others). That’s never happened at a Super Bowl before.
Predictions: Depending on who you listen to, Super Bowl XLV will either be very low-scoring or very high-scoring. The Steelers and Packers allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL this season, so that supports the first low-scoring theory. But the last time the two teams played (in December 2009), the Steelers won 37-36. Oddsmakers have the Packers as a slight favorite and have the over-under (the total points scored in the game) at 45.
Super Bowl XLV kicks off at 6:29 p.m. ET/3:29 PT Sunday on FOX.