Super Bowl XLIII Preview: Cardinals vs. Steelers

 

The Steelers go for a 6th ring while the Arizona Cardinals try to grab the first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

 

Cardinals vs. Steelers Overview:

Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin have both taken their teams to the Super Bowl in only two years as the heads of their respective franchises. Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they won the Super Bowl in 2005. With five Super Bowl rings in their history and the No. 1 defense in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers are an entirely different animal from the offensive machine of the Arizona Cardinals. Fans with Super Bowl tickets are in for a classic battle of styles and philosophies.

 

Arizona Cardinals Offense:

Two-time NFL MVP and former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Kurt Warner is the brains behind an unmatched passing attack. WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston all went over 1,000 yards receiving in the regular season. Larry Fitzgerald has been totally unstoppable in the NFL playoffs with 419 yards and five touchdowns in the past three games. Veteran running back Edgerrin James has come on strong in the postseason as well and has controlled the clock while platooning with rookie RB Tim Hightower. A great offensive line caps off this impressive unit.

 

Arizona Cardinals Defense:

No one thought the Arizona Cardinals defense would play well enough for them to win a playoff game, let alone go to the Super Bowl, but the unit has really stepped up in the postseason. OLB Karlos Dansby is the heart of the Arizona Cardinals defense and is a predator against the run. DT Darnell Dockett and MLB Gerald Hayes have also become stout against the rush. DE Bertrand Berry is a lifetime Arizona Cardinal and a brilliant pass rusher. The Arizona Cardinals secondary is impeccable with SS Adrian Wilson and rookie CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie standing out.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers Offense:

Since the days of Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been built to pound defenses with the running game. The Pittsburgh Steelers of today certainly follow that pattern and crush opposing front sevens with a huge offensive line. RB Willie Parker is the primary runner and mixes top-end speed with between-the-tackles running. RBs Mewelde Moore and Gary Russell are also in the mix. QB Ben Roethlisberger has won one Super Bowl in his short career and uses a big arm to stretch the field with WRs Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers Defense:

Under the leadership of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the Pittsburgh Steelers 3-4 defense has reached No. 1 in the NFL once again. With complex zone blitzes, the Pittsburgh Steelers can bring pressure from every position or angle on the field and throw off blocking assignments. NT Casey Hampton soaks up blockers up front and is the locomotive of the entire defense. OLB James Harrison is the NFL Defensive MVP and is a true force coming off the edge with partner OLB LaMarr Woodley. SS Troy Polamalu makes the defense run with his versatility.

 

Arizona Cardinals Keys to Victory:

Keeping Kurt Warner protected is the most important priority for the Arizona Cardinals defense. If the veteran can be given time to survey the field with his trio of weapons, no defense can last. The Arizona Cardinals offensive line stymied the blitzing storm of the Philadelphia Eagles and should be able to manage the Pittsburgh Steelers as well. WR Larry Fitzgerald must take over the game like he has done all postseason, but Anquan Boldin needs a good game to draw double teams. The running game will factor in mostly on draws to exploit blitzes.

 

With WR Hines Ward being slowed with injury, the Arizona Cardinals secondary will have more leeway to use man coverage. Few players in the NFL have the speed of CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and he should take WR Santonio Holmes completely out of the game. SS Adrian Wilson is the best run-stopping DB in the League, and good corner play will let him come into the box to stuff the run. Putting a few hits on Ben Roethlisberger is key, but the defensive line must focus on holding the line of scrimmage so the LBs can make plays against the run.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers Keys to Victory:

The Pittsburgh Steelers cannot get into a passing duel with the Arizona Cardinals because they will lose. The top-tier secondary of the Arizona Cardinals will match up well against the receivers so the running game will be necessary. The run will also control the clock and keep the ball away from Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. The offensive line has to get a hat on LB Karlos Dansby as the run defense is predicated on him. The Pittsburgh Steelers need to pass just enough to keep SS Adrian Wilson out of the box. RB Willie Parker will have to break plenty of tackles in the open field.

 

Arizona Cardinals running back Edgerrin James may lead the NFL in postseason rushing, but stopping QB Kurt Warner is the main target all the same. WR Larry Fitzgerald cannot be stopped if Kurt Warner is given time, and SS Troy Polamalu may be better served on the blitz than in coverage. The Arizona Cardinals WRs cannot be given free release from the line and constant jams are a necessity. Trickery from the 3-4 defense is key, and OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley must get constant pressure on Kurt Warner, with ILB Lawrence Timmons blitzing inside.

 

Super Bowl XLIII Outlook:

Fans with Super Bowl tickets would never have guessed that the Arizona Cardinals would be in the big game, and no NFL expert would have made that prediction either. The Pittsburgh Steelers are right where they were predicted to be and bring a slew of Super Bowl experience to the table on both sides of the ball. Common themes of toughness, physicality, and aggressiveness run between both teams, but no two teams could be more different in the way they use these attributes on the field.

 

There will be history made in Super Bowl XLIII, with either the Pittsburgh Steelers taking a sixth Super Bowl ring or the Arizona Cardinals taking home their first. The deck seems stacked in the favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers with their great defense and Super Bowl experience. However, heart and desire cannot be overlooked, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt, QB Kurt Warner, and WR Larry Fitzgerald bring all this to the Arizona Cardinals. With momentum and heart on their sides, fans with Super Bowl tickets may just see the Arizona Cardinals win in a monumental upset.

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