How the Pittsburgh Steelers Can Win Super Bowl XLIII
Let's do the easy one first: The Pittsburgh Steelers are a better team than the Arizona Cardinals.
Doesn't mean they've got the victory in Super Bowl XLIII locked up. Just ask the New York Giants or last season's New England Patriots.
The Giants (against the Philadelphia Eagles) and the Patriots (by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII) got game-planned.
That's when your opponent figures out everything you're capable of doing, then figures out how to take it away from you.
This is what the Steelers' game plan should be.
Ben Roethlisberger is the perfect Steelers quarterback: tough, collected and able to pull a big play out of his hat at the opportune time. It's important that he let the game come to him, handing the ball off to Willie Parker and Carey Davis.
Roethlisberger shouldn't ever feel bad about settling for a dumpoff if the deep stuff isn't there. Those short passes will be caught by big guys (Davis or tight end Heath Miller) who can fight off a tackle and move the chains.
When the deep stuff is there, Roethlisberger has to see it and be on the money.
Wide receivers Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed, and Nate Washington will all see playing time. They have to make themselves available, and break off their routes to help Roethlisberger, should the quarterback get in trouble. They've done that well enough all season.
Downfield blocking will also be important.
The Cardinals will run from time to time: the Steelers need to know when that'll happen and react accordingly.
Edgerrin James was little used until playoff time, and the possibility is there that the Cardinals will put a heavy load on him. Good fundamental tackling will lead to diminishing returns and help make the Cardinals one-dimensional.
When the Cardinals want to pass, the Steelers' primary goal will be to keep Larry Fitzgerald at bay. It might not be wise to try to smack him at the line of scrimmage, as he'll probably give as good as he gets, then run away from the smacker. Stay close and make sure there's a safety eyballing Fitzgerald at all times.
It'll also be important to make Cardinals QB Kurt Warner uncomfortable and unhappy. While the first way that comes to mind to do that is blitzing, that technique had better be used judiciously. Warner's known for finding the open man quickly.
The Steelers need to be able to get pressure with just the defensive linemen. If they can get to Warner often enough, he'll fumble. If they can't get to him quickly, they'll have enough people in coverage to limit gains.
If the Steelers can take Fitgerald out of the game, the Cardinals other wideouts, primarily Steve Breaston and Anquan Boldin will have to make plays.
Skilled though they may be, they aren't Fitzgerald's caliber, and a few hard hits by Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark might render them less effective.
When that happens, Warner will get desperate and turnovers will come.
The Most Important Player
Roethlisberger. he has to wait for his moments, not give in to frustration and count on help from his defense. If he does that, the Steelers should hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Coming soon: How Arizona can win.
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