Phenomenal Predictions Presents : Super Bowl XLIII
The Super Bowl. The game every NFL fan waits for. Well, okay, maybe not EVERY fan, I’m sure there are Cleveland Browns fans and Detroit Lions fans that could care less about the Super Bowl since they’ve never seen one, but ALMOST every fan waits for this day.
The 43rd installment of the NFL’s modern day championship game will be played at 6:20 PM EST at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. It’s an odd numbered Super Bowl, so the NFC Champion Cardinals will effectively be the ‘home team.’
As you may or may not know, the Steelers and Cardinals once merged the franchises together. The year was 1944, the cause? World War II. 1947 was the last time the Cardinals won an NFL title, 2006 was the last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals have effectively made it to their first Super Bowl in franchise history, leaving only five teams who have never had the chance to play for the Lombardi Trophy (Lions, Browns, Saints, Jaguars, Texans).
The Steelers are entering the seventh Super Bowl in franchise history, with the chance to win their sixth, and in the process set an NFL record for Super Bowl wins.
Hines Ward (WR) – knee
Ben Roethlisberger (QB) – back
Antonio Smith (DE) – knee
Anquan Boldin (WR) – hamstring
Cardinals Keys to the Game
Contain Willie Parker & Company
Willie Parker has seemingly hit a stride in the playoffs, he’s starting to look like the circa 2005-06 Willie Parker, you know, the one that broke a record setting 72 yard run in Super Bowl XL?
The Cardinals have done an excellent job shutting down the run, containing running backs such as DeAngelo Williams and Brian Westbrook. Mewelde Moore’s ankle is bothering him, so he may or may not be a tad slow come game time, but the Steelers will utilize all three of their running backs; it’s the Cardinals job to shut them down.
It’s a fact—as an offense, when you’re down you start to feel like you have to make plays. You may try and force things. You make mistakes when you try taking something that’s not there. Make Ben Roethlisberger put the game on his shoulders. He’s banged up as well after taking a hit at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s a 50-50 shot, sometimes Roethlisberger will rise to the occasion and lead the team down the field and then sometimes he’ll throw a game breaking interception.
Keep Ben Roethlisberger Inside the Pocket
As the Ravens learned in the AFC Championship game—Ben Roethlisberger is deadly outside of the pocket. He’s a big guy, and can slip most defensive players tackles. That’s why they’ve got to collapse the pocket and get more than one man on him.
Keep Kurt Warner Upright
The Pittsburgh Steelers pass rush is a scary foe for any quarterback. Any one of the players on that defense can bring down the quarterback at any time. Look at the names: James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu.
Woodley has three playoff games in succession where he’s had multiple sacks.
Attack the Secondary
The Cardinals have the best receiver in the NFL (that’s right Randy, Chad, Reggie, and Terrell—Larry’s better than you.) Larry Fitzgerald is a tall, strong receiver that can jump with the best of them, Ike Taylor’s on the shorter side, and they’ll be matched up for the majority of the day.
If Kurt Warner wants to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald the lob will be his best friend. Larry Fitzgerald’s breaking Jerry Rice’s playoff records, he’s obviously the man in Arizona.
Steelers Keys to the Game
Control the Ball – and the Clock
Perhaps the easiest way to keep the ball out of Larry Fitzgerald’s hands is to keep it in Ben Roethlisberger’s. The Steelers offense is going to have to hold onto the ball, and drive down the field.
Short, efficient throws to Heath Miller and Hines Ward to start it off and then go for the medium to deep ball to Santonio Holmes. The Cardinals secondary is nothing to scoff at, Rodgers-Cromartie is turning into a great NFL corner, and safety Adrian Wilson is one of the best at his position.
Hit the Cardinals' Receivers
The Steelers defense prides itself on being hard hitting and strong nosed. The player that’s getting the most hype at the moment is safety Ryan Clark, who’s laid devastating hits on both New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee.
Protect Ben Roethlisberger
In what’s become old pat for the Steelers once again their stud quarterback is banged up, that’s nothing new at all, and they’ve got to keep him on his feet. The Cardinals defensive line isn’t exactly the greatest but then again neither is the Steelers offensive line.
Pound the Rock
The Steelers need to get back to classic Steelers’ football. Running the ball—even though it won’t be as traditional as some would hope as Willie Parker isn’t what one would call an ‘up the gut’ kind of running back, the principal is the same.
It’s the Super Bowl. There’s two weeks off from football from the championship games to the big one. That’s a lot of time for player’s to heal and it’s a lot of time for players to let their minds wander, get caught up in the hype.
If they want to win, they’ve got to keep their minds between the lines.
In the end, as every game does, it all comes down to one simple principal: ‘Who wants it more?’
Do the newcomers have the hunger to knock off the old pros? Kurt Warner knows what it’s like to win the Super Bowl but he also knows what it’s like to lose it.
Are the NFL record bound Steelers ready to join a one member club instead of sharing space with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers? Ben Roethlisberger’s made it to and won the big game once before. Can he do it again?
The high flying Cardinals offense versus the reincarnation of the Steel Curtain. Which will prevail in this clash of two polar opposite teams? Which team is hungrier? Who wants it more...?
TJ’s Prediction: Steelers 34 Cardinals 21