Super Matchup: Steelers vs. Cardinals
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When the Steelers have the ball: One of the areas they will try to exploit is Arizona's aggressive, up-the-field style, a scheme used by defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to blow up plays in the backfield. However, it also leaves them vulnerable to big plays in the running game. It could allow Willie Parker to break long runs. Ben Roethlisberger will have to be careful about forcing throws into coverage because Arizona has several athletic players in the secondary, including CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. If Rodgers-Cromartie shadows WR Santonio Holmes, that could create room for WR Hines Ward.
When the Cardinals have the ball: One of the things Ken Whisenhunt did in the postseason was reintroduce the running game, which is why Edgerrin James leads all playoff rushers with 203 yards. Nonetheless, do not expect them to try the run the ball on the Steelers' top-ranked defense. QB Kurt Warner has three 1,000-yard receivers, including Larry Fitzgerald, and also has utilized Tim Hightower on checkdown routes, something he will try to exploit. However, because of their pass-oriented attack, LT Mike Gandy and RT Levi Brown will be left in single matchups against OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, respectively.
• PDF: The Pittsburgh Steelers data
• PDF: The Arizona Cardinals data
• Game: Steelers (14-4) vs. Arizona Cardinals (12-7).
• When: 6:28 p.m.
• Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
• TV: WPXI.
• Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970) and Steelers Radio Network.
Cardinals S Adrian Wilson: He might not be the best strong safety on the field -- that distinction belongs to Troy Polamalu -- but Wilson is not far behind. He plays a style similar to Polamalu, acting like a linebacker at the line of scrimmage but also being able to make plays in the secondary. Wilson (6-3, 230), a two-time Pro Bowl selection, is bigger than Polamalu and is a ferocious hitter. But he also was the first player to have two touchdown returns of 99 yards or longer in a season (2006).
The Cardinals are making their first appearance in the Super Bowl. Curiously, they are 1-5 in games in the Eastern Time Zone this season. This is the seventh Super Bowl appearance for the Steelers, second-most in NFL history. They are trying to become the first team to win six Lombardi trophies.
• To win, the Cardinals must ...
1. Follow their leader.To beat the Steelers -- if they don't beat themselves -- Warner has to spread the field and throw at least 40 times.
2. Have Larry give them fits. LarryFitzgerald's body control and ability to high-point the ball makes him difficult to cover, even with two players.
3. Get on a Rolle. DB Antrel Rolle has an uncanny ability to convert turnovers into TDs, returning five of his 10 career takeaways for TDs.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Hurt Kurt. Warner has stayed away from mistakes in the postseason, but is prone to fumbles on strip-sacks -- a favorite of James Harrison.
2. Remember Counter 34 Pike. The play they used in SB XL on Willie Parker's 75-yard TD run -- the type of play that could work vs. a gambling defense.
3. Be bold with Anquan. The secondary must be physical with Fitzgerald and WR Anquan Boldin -- receivers who aren't afraid to go over the middle.
First Published February 1, 2009 12:00 am