TAMPA, Fla. -- There is no team in the league that would not sell its soul to have Arizona's three wide receivers.
Well, maybe one.
"I'm not trading my three for their three," the Steelers' Bruce Arians declared.
As offensive coordinator for a team in tonight's Super Bowl, perhaps Arians felt compelled to say that publicly. After all, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston each topped 1,000 yards receiving. They combined for 3,475 yards on 262 catches.
Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington came in with nearly 1,000 yards fewer and caught 86 fewer passes. Their 15 touchowns are puny compared to the 26 the Cardinals' trio rang up.
Arians did not flinch. Even up, he'll keep the three he has over the three who will dress in red tonight.
"Larry's a beast, and Anquan's done a good job, and Breaston's done a good job," Arians said. "But I'm not trading Hines Ward for anybody."
The statistical evidence is overwhelming for the Arizona threesome, but Arians came armed with his own data to back up his opinion. It has something to do with how often each team passes, along with little things such as throwing blocks.
The Cardinals threw 630 passes in 2008; the Steelers 506.
"I know these guys, I like what they bring," Arians said of his trio. "Each one is capable of going deep or taking a short pass and going the distance. And they'll all block.
"And Hines' heartbeat is something you can't take out of this football team."
There has been more focus on Ward's right knee than anything else about the Steelers' receivers, except when Santonio Holmes told a story about selling drugs on street corners when he was 10 years old, which got some attention.
Other than that, it has been Arizona's receiving trio that has been the pre-Super Bowl darling, and rightfully so. Fitzgerald not only was an All-Pro during the season, he has continued it in the playoffs with 419 yards and five touchdowns in three games, looking like a Lynn Swann Super Bowl highlight on many of them.
"I keep telling the media, it's not a competition with those guys," Washington said of all the attention his counterparts in red received. "We're not competing against their receiving corps. Their individual success and success as a group, that doesn't matter to us. People can say they are better than our receiving corps, but that's not what we're worried about. We're worried about coming out and getting a ring."
Ward led the Steelers with 81 receptions, 1,043 yards and seven touchdowns, his most productive season since 2003.
Arians declared that his three receivers could put up the same statistics as Arizona's if he chose to play that way.
"There's no doubt."
And produce three 1,000-yard men?
"Easily. If you throw it 55 times a game, it's easy to get a thousand. You're going to complete 35 balls.''
Why not do it then?
"I don't think you can win that way," Arians said.
But aren't the Arizona Cardinals here tonight?
"Yeah," Arians said, laughing. "But they changed."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt's Cardinals rediscovered the ground game in the playoffs after going just 9-7 in the regular season. In three postseason games, Arizona averaged 111 yards rushing on 33 carries, compared to an average of 73.6 yards rushing and 21.3 carries in the regular season.
When necessary, Arians claimed his passing game can match Arizona's.
"We had to play spread for a month when we were down to 1Â 1/2 running backs, and you play to the strength you have at the time. Willie [Parker] was gone, Rashard [Mendenhall] was gone, and then we lost Heath [Miller]."
Roethlisberger passed for 309 yards in a comeback victory against Jacksonville, 280 in a loss to Indianapolis, 308 in a one-point victory against San Diego and 329 in a loss at Tennessee.
Those were the four most productive games from a yardage standpoint, yet the Steelers went 2-2 and barely won those.
Still, it's available tonight if they need it, Arians said. The spread, the no-huddle, the empty set, all of it.
"It's something that I don't have any problem with doing in this ballgame."
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .