They did it. It worked. Two weeks of hyping a game that seemed like it was going to be a huge smack down when it first became a reality has now baited my interest and has me wondering who the hell to pick.
The Steelers? Who arguably have the best defense all season long, and are certainly as physical and tough then any team in the league. Or the Cardinals? Who have made fools out of me, and everyone else who has picked against them, not just all season long, but also all playoffs long.
Well, I’m going to say the Cardinals are going to pull it out 24-17.
Make no mistakes about it, this will be a home game for the Steelers. Not only is their fan base as loony about their team as any other in professional sports, but they will also travel to see their team. Accounts from the last time the Steelers were in the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XL vs. Seattle in Detroit), said the stadium was about 4/5th Steelers fan. And when you’re talking about one of sports most successful franchises, the Steelers, facing and one of their LEAST successful franchises, The Cardinals, you’re looking at a huge disparity in fans. I mean there isn’t many Arizona Cardinals fans who say something along the lines of, “Well I’ve been a Cardnials’ fan every since the days of Timm Rosenbach”. But the tradition of the Steelers, and the quality team they put out there, year in and year out, has been winning fans since the NFL’s inception.
With that being said, this is a league passed on match-ups, and there the Cardinals have the advantage.
The Cardinals, with Boldin, Fitzgerald, and Breaston, spread out over the field, will be too much for a Pittsburgh secondary, which benefits largely from their tremendous pass rush. Kurt Warner will take shots down field as often as he can, but will need to keep as far away as humanly possible from Pittsburgh safety, Troy Polamalu. If Polamalu some how creates one big play during this game (INT ran back several yards, a fumble forced that leads to a touchdown, etc.), all bets are off. I think that if the Steelers end up starting off in nickel and dime packages on defense, the Cardinals won’t be shy to give them a heavy dose of running. That’s what the Cardinals have working for them right now, they can do it by air or ground.
As for Arizona’s defense, I don’t think they need to do much more than play the way they’ve played all post-season. Their defense is by no means stellar, but they have been quite underrated all season long. In addition to that, is there anyone out there that really thinks Ben Rothlisberger can win this game using strictly his arm? I sure don’t. Maybe I’m just distraught that some how Ben Rothlisberger has now played in as many Super Bowls as Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb combined, but if the Cardinals can tame “Fast” Willie Parker, I’m not sure Rothlisberger is the type of quarterback who can find openings when he’s looking at five and six defensive backs on third down.
Cardinals’ head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, has been a step ahead of every coach in the playoffs thus far and now he is facing a team, that he coached on for eight years and helped establish the tone and theme that the Steelers take on the field with them every Sunday. Considering that the Steelers come in with mostly the same game plan every time they hit the field in recent years (pressure the quarterback on defense, run the ball primarily, and then take a crack down field as the defense loosens up), I think Whisenhunt will plan accordingly and won’t be shy to break out his old playbooks from when he was coaching the black and gold. I think the Cardinals have a lot working for them. To me, I don’t view Whisenhunt as much different than his mentor, Bill Cowher. And if I ask myself, who do you like more in a coaching match up Cowher or Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, the answer is as clear as day; Bill Cowher. Because of these reasons, I like the Cardinals to squeeze a win out in a tough fought game.
On a side note: I would pay attention to the punters on both teams on Sunday. Shane Graham and Mitch Berger. Graham, has been laughably bad all season long. It’s quite often that he makes punts in the 30-40 yard range. While Berger almost broke his leg in the AFC Championship game on a punt he straight up almost whiffed on. These guys will definitely be the biggest wimps on the field on Sunday, but they’re just as important as most the other players representing their teams.
But for me the game takes a second-class seat to the anticipation of Bruce Springsteen playing at half time. I find myself nervous that a guy I hype up to anyone and everyone who will listen to me won’t be able to rock the way he does over the course of a three-hour plus concert, in the window of the12 minutes he’s being allowed. No halftime show will ever be able to emulate the emotions that U2 had working for them, when they preformed at the first Super Bowl after 9/11, but I’m optimistic Bruce will find something that works and have a strong performance.
Anyway, Cardinals win the Super Bowl and Steelers fans turn their terrible towels into Kleenexes. Bruce Springsteen kills it at halftime, and the Steelers will begin a dark era, and not see another Super Bowl for 50 years, as the Cleveland Browns become the elite team in the AFC North, led by their new addition, LeBron James.
A guy can dream right?