When it comes to Super Bowl MVPs, don’t bet against the quarterbacks. In 44 previous games, QBs have won the Most Valuable Player award 23 times, including three of the past four years.
Not surprisingly, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is considered the early favorite in Super Bowl XLV at Dallas. Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has never won the award, but if his team claims its seventh Super Bowl, he could be the player who picks up the award.
But they’re not the only ones who might make the critical play or plays to help their team on Sunday. Here are five non-quarterback picks who could win MVP:
1. Troy Polamalu, Steelers safety
Reasons he’ll win: He’s the heart and soul of Pittsburgh’s defense, and his ability to make game-changing plays could be the difference in the game. He had a team-high seven interceptions despite missing two games in December with an Achilles injury. If the game turns on defense – and it just might – Polamalu is likely to be the reason.
Reason he won’t: Although he’s listed as probable, Polamalu’s sore Achilles could limit his ability to wreak havoc.
2. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers RB
Reasons he’ll win: Take a look at the Steelers’ 24-19 AFC Championship victory over the New York Jets. Mendenhall ran for 121 yards on 27 carries with one touchdown, making him a valuable weapon if Pittsburgh takes a lead in the second half. Mendenhall had 1,273 rushing yards and 13 TDs during the regular season.
Reason he won’t: The Packers haven’t given up 100 yards on the ground to an opponent this postseason.
3. Clay Matthews, Packers LB
Reasons he’ll win: You could make an argument that Matthews, in just his second NFL season, is as valuable to the Packers’ defense as Polamalu is to the Steelers’. Matthews had six sacks after two games and finished the season with 13½, ranking fourth in the league and winning the Sporting News defensive player of the year award. Like Polamalu, he just signed his own shampoo endorsement deal.
Reason he won’t: Defensive players have won the Super Bowl MVP only eight times. It hasn’t happened in eight years, not since Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson, and only twice in the past 14 years.
4. Hines Ward, Steelers WR
Reasons he’ll win it: Ward is familiar with the MVP, having won it in Super Bowl XL following a five-catch, 123-yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks. He has just five catches for 39 yards in two playoffs games, so he’s primed for a memorable Super Bowl, especially if it’s a close game in the fourth quarter.
Reason he won’t: Ward is 34, and his production dropped of significantly this season. He’s still valuable, but the Steelers have other go-to weapons on offense.
5. Greg Jennings, Packers WR
Reasons he’ll win it: Jennings has a way of making important catches and is coming off a big game in the Packers’ 21-14 NFC Championship game victory over the Chicago Bears: 8 receptions for 130 yards. In his past two postseason games, he has 16 catches for 231 yards. Plus, wide receivers have on the MVP in three of the last six Super Bowls.
Reason he won’t: Jennings has a banged-up knee that might limit his ability to get downfield quickly.