Pitt alums Aaron Donald and Tyler Boyd both advanced to Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, as Donald and the Los Angeles Rams defeated the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in the NFC title game and Boyd and the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in the AFC title game to reach the Super Bowl.
For Donald, this will be his second Super Bowl appearance, as he played in Super Bowl LIII, which concluded the 2018 season. However, in that game, the Los Angeles Rams lost to the New England Patriots 13-3, and Donald was denied a ring. Now, that stands as one of the few achievements he has yet to attain in his NFL career, but that could soon change.
For Boyd, Super Bowl LVI will be the first of his career. It will also be the first that the Cincinnati Bengals have played in during his lifetime, as their last appearance came in Super Bowl XXIII, which served as the finale for the 1988 season. However, the Bengals lost that game to the 49ers 20-16, and they are after the first Lombardi Trophy in their history.
Donald and Boyd are not just along for the ride in the upcoming Super Bowl either, as both serve as captains of their respective teams and are standouts on the field in addition to that. That goes without saying for Donald, who recently earned first-team All-Pro honors for the seventh time in his eight-year career. He also displayed his skill in the game-sealing play of the NFC championship game, as he got to 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and forced a bad pass that Rams linebacker Travin Howard picked off to secure the win.
And Boyd has done well as a leader on an evolving Bengals team over the last four years, despite getting little recognition for his efforts. In 2018 and 2019, he stepped in as the team’s top receiver in the absence of A.J. Green, posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. And with the additions of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins over the last two years, Boyd has remained a steady presence, with over 800 yards each year despite fewer targets.
So far this postseason, Donald has accrued nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, two tackles for losses, six quarterback hits and one pass breakup, and Boyd has come up with 10 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. The Rams, who will play on their home turf in the Super Bowl, will enter the game as 4.5-point favorites. And with two offenses that are virtually identical statistically set to square off, Donald and the stout Rams defense could prove to be the difference in this anticipated matchup.