Steelers-Cardinals: It's Super, Baby
I need to take a minute here and say wow! Congratulations to both teams; this is really something.
To the Steelers, you are on your way to Tampa to become the first team in NFL history to win six Super Bowls.
I was fortunate enough to find tickets to the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh. The energy was unbelievable as Troy Polamalu intercepted Joe Flacco's pass, ran sideline to sideline, and brought in the game-sealing touchdown.
As the newest version of the seemingly annual "Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl" song was blasted over the loudspeakers at Heinz Field, 65,350 fans screamed themselves mute the lyrics of the song. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
I can only imagine that a similar celebration occurred in Arizona hours earlier as the Cardinals wrapped up their first Super Bowl berth in history.
Looking at this game, both teams have proven themselves to be among the best in the league this year, and certainly deserving of their chances to win the title.
Unfortunately for one of these teams, the Super Bowl can only have one victor.
I suppose it has become common practice to analyze each potential edge in the game and see where that takes us.
This one isn't clear. Mike Tomlin is one of the best young coaches in the NFL and will have an amazing career ahead of him, especially if he keeps up his recent performances, which have earned him something that no other Steelers head coach has earned: back-to-back playoff appearances in his first two seasons.
Ken Whisenhunt, however, has already proven that he knows how to win a Super Bowl. I refuse to mention which team he won it with because ESPN will have that subject covered, beaten, killed, buried, resurrected, and killed again by the time that February rolls around.
Dick LeBeau is probably the best defensive coordinator in the league. Bruce Arians is probably the worst offensive coordinator in the league. Seriously Bruce, empty backfield on 3rd-and-1?
I will call coaching a push because the head coaching isn't easily determined, as both are early in their careers (as head coaches), and while Dick LeBeau is a genius, Bruce Arians is very, very bad.
I will give this to the Cardinals. Berger punted the ball 10 feet in the last game and he needs to find a new line of work.
The bright light for the Steelers here is Santonio Holmes, who threatens to break almost any return for a big gain.
Now here is where an interesting question arises. The Cardinals were very poor defensively in the regular season. They had impressive games against Atlanta and Carolina. They had a horrendous game against the Eagles.
I have heard that there are two different versions of the Cardinals defense, the good and bad versions. People have said if the good unit shows up it could rival the Steelers. I have to respectfully disagree. Any team that gives up over 450 yards of offense in a Championship game is not good on defense. Period.
The Steelers defense is the superior unit. There can be no question about it.
Interestingly the Cardinals have developed something of a running game this postseason. That is likely a major cause for their success. This trend will not continue. No team runs successfully against the Steelers, and a team who only came into their running game in the past three games doesn't stand a chance.
Willie Parker looks to have another big game against a softer defense. The Ravens were able to keep him somewhat in check, but those are the Ravens. This type of bird doesn't play defense quite the same way.
I would say that because Kurt Warner is forced to throw more he would be projected to perform better. That will likely not happen, however, because the Steelers defense is very good at pressuring the quarterback. Warner will have a tough time as his offensive line does not match up well against the top-ranked Steelers defense.
Even when he does get the pass off, it travels into a secondary that is ranked number one against the pass.
The Cardinals, however, do not pressure the quarterback effectively or play very good passing defense. The Eagles came out in the second half with a necessity to pass the ball if they had any hope of winning.
McNabb recorded 375 passing yards by systematically picking apart the Arizona secondary. The Cardinals knew they had to defend the pass and they failed. This does not bode well for them.
If the game is on the line and a game winner needs to be produced, Big Ben is more likely to deliver than Warner.
Hines Ward looks to be healthy which will be big for the Steelers. Santonio Holmes has had a phenomenal postseason, stepping up at just the right time to help his team win.
Larry Fitzgerald. That's all I need to say. This man is unbelievable and is recording numbers this postseason that are astronomical. Anquan Boldin is also going to be healthy but will be less involved than Fitzgerald, who has become Warner's go-to guy.
Advantage Arizona (Slightly)
Heath Miller is one of the best in the game. He will catch any ball thrown his way and is very good at blocking for both the pass and the run.
Jerame Tuman hasn't played much this year and probably won't factor into the game.
While the Steelers' offensive line has played far above their regular season schedule, I will default to the body of work argument. They are not a very good line, and they represent the only glaring weakness of the Steelers. Other than Berger. Who sucks. And Bruce Arians. I hate him.
The Cardinals' line, however, has struggled against the blitz. That is something the Steelers like to do.
Push (If the good Steelers line shows up, Advantage Pittsburgh; if not, Advantage Arizona)
Well, now that the boring part of the program is over, I will show clairvoyance and predict the score perfectly.
The Steelers will win the game by a score of 31-13. I like palindromes.
Realistically, the score of this game is impossible to predict. Every time the Cardinals should lose, they manage to pull out a win. They, however, have beaten teams led by their offense (sorry Philly, you were never a defensive team, and you played very soft defense against the Cards). That is how upsets occur. If you slow down an offensive team even a little bit, you can destabilize their whole game plan.
A defensive team, however, will still play defense, and still play defense well. If you cannot get points, you cannot get an upset. That is why the Steelers usually win and have defied the recently created rule about the playoff bye.
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