Keys for the Pittsburgh Steelers to Earn a Victory Against the Arizona Cardinals

Chris Gazze@ChrisG_PITCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2011

Keys for the Pittsburgh Steelers to Earn a Victory Against the Arizona Cardinals

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    Pittsburgh will travel to Arizona this week in what is a must-win game with the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens on the horizon.

    Since leaving the Steelers, Cardinals’ head coach Ken Whisenhunt has brought in many former Pittsburgh players and coaches making Arizona “Pittsburgh West.”

    Whisenhunt’s coaching staff is field with former Steelers’ coaches including assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm, special teams Kevin Spencer and defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Deshea Townsend is also an assistant coach.

    Suffice to say, the coaching staff will be very familiar with the Steelers personnel in each phase of the game.

    Arizona has several former players as well including outside linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans as well as defensive end Nick Eason.

    With the Cardinals’ having such knowledge of the Steelers, you can ignore their 1-4 record, this will be a tough challenge for Pittsburgh.

    Here are the keys to the Steelers defeating the Cardinals a rematch of Super Bowl XLIII.

Fizzle Fitzgerald

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    Pittsburgh will face another NFL receiver this week when they have to match up again with Larry Fitzgerald.

    Through the first five games, Fitzgerald has 27 receptions for 427 yards, but only two touchdowns.

    Fitzgerald is the clear focus of the offense for the Cardinals, though, running back Beanie Wells has run well this season.

    Pittsburgh will put Ike Taylor on Fitzgerald in hopes of limiting his impact.

    “He has great body control, ball skills,” said Taylor. “Probably the best ball skills guy I have seen. Body control for his size is unbelievable.”

    Luckily for Taylor, he has the size an athletic ability to stay with Fitzgerald, but there is a clear disadvantage when it comes to locating the ball. Few are better than the former Pitt Panther at going up and getting the ball.

    Ryan Clark may be asked to help double Fitzgerald and if so, he will have to be aware of his deceptive speed.

    “He is an elite receiver,” said Clark. “He is a big, fast, physical guy…If you watch his game, when has he gotten caught from behind?”

    Not in Super Bowl XLIII when he caught and ran in a 64-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals a three-point lead with under three minutes to play.

    Though this is not a championship game this week, Pittsburgh does not want to revisit history and will do their best to eliminate Fitzgerald from making an impact.

Take Advantage of Age on the Outside

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    Joey Porter and Clark Haggans are in a familiar position manning the outside linebacker positions in Arizona just as they did in Pittsburgh.

    However, the 34-year-olds have not been productive this season, combining for 26 tackles and one sack. To put that in perspective, James Harrison, who has battled injuries and missed two games, has 23 tackles and two sacks.

    This sounds like a weakness for Arizona and a perfect opportunity for Bruce Arians’ offense to attack them.

    Arians likes to have Rashard Mendenhall, last week’s AFC Offensive Player of the Week, run to the outside.

    Mendenhall’s speed and agility to the outside gives him a huge edge on the veteran linebackers.

    It will be important for the Steelers to get a body on Porter and Haggans and take advantage of this matchup.

    With Pittsburgh’s speed at receiver and skill at tight end, they could also look to exploit these players in coverage as well. The Steelers have a very favorable matchup any time that Porter or Haggans has to drop into coverage.

Don't Be Familiar

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    Arizona’s current coaching staff spent a lot of time coaching the Steelers players and is familiar with their scheme, particularly Ray Horton.

    Horton left Pittsburgh, where he coached under Dick LeBeau, to become the Cardinals defensive coordinator. He will know the ins-and-outs of Pittsburgh’s defense as well as how to attack their offense.

    Horton understands the Steelers weaknesses along the offensive line and will be familiar with Ben Roethlisberger’s tendencies with the ball as well as Arians while calling plays.

    Luckily for the Steelers, they can just go to LeBeau to check on some of the scheme’s nuances and how they can exploit them.

    This may mean that the Steelers go out of their comfort zone and throw some new looks at Arizona’s defense.

    But the Arizona’s defense isn’t the only issue. Horton will provide valuable information for the Cardinals’ offense regarding LeBeau’s complicated scheme.

    Just as the offense may want to give a few new looks, so will the defense. It is already difficult to read the Steelers defense, but a few new wrinkles could be to the Steelers benefit.

    If the Steelers go out and do what they do every week the Cardinals will know what is coming. That will mean that the Steelers will have to simply out-execute Arizona and for how they have been playing recently, that may be a risky proposition.

Spotlight Player: Offense

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    Ben Roethlisberger is once again the key player for the Steelers. Why? He has to recognize that to go against the coaching staff that knows him most outside of Pittsburgh.

    He will also have to face a defense that mirrors the Steelers' scheme, but still lacks in talent.

    Roethlisberger had five outstanding quarters in a row before playing poorly from midway through the second quarter on last week.

    This week he will not have to face the same windy conditions that he had last week though in Arizona and is expected to perform much better.

Spotlight Player: Defense

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    Ike Taylor got beat last week twice, badly. Luckily for him, only one resulted in a touchdown.

    There can be no mental lapses this week against a premiere receiver like Fitzgerald.

    Taylor will need to blanket Fitzgerald, but in the end, the most important thing is for him to keep Arizona’s leading receiver out of the end zone.

Game Notes

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    • Pittsburgh leads the overall series over Arizona 32-23-3.
    • Arizona defeated Pittsburgh 21-14 in their last regular season meeting on Sept. 30, 2007.
    • The Steelers have a 1-3 record in Arizona.
    • Ben Roethlisberger has six straight games with at least 200 yards passing.
    • Hines Ward is 61 yards away from 12,000 for his career and needs 23 receptions to reach 1,000.

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