Super Bowl XLIII Outlook
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals Clash in Tampa tonight for Super XLIII. The Steelers come into the game as seven point favorites while the Cardinals are in¬†familiar territory as the underdog in Super XLIII. The Cardinals who finished the regular season 9-7, winning the NFC West division had to go through the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles to reach Super Bowl XLIII. Pittsburgh the AFC North division champs beat the San Diego Chargers in the divisional round and beat the Baltimore Ravens for the third time this year in the AFC Championship game 23-14. The Steelers who have reached the Super Bowl for the¬†second time in four years, will be¬†vying for their 6th Super Bowl title.
Steelers Keys to the Game
1. Establish Running Game: The Steelers running game broke wide open against the San Diego Chargers in the divisional round series as Willie Parker rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Parker did not have much success against the Ravens but the Steelers feel the Cardinals are vulnerable ( Cardinals finished dead last in run defense) and if Parker can have a big day, the Steelers will control the clock and keep Warner & Co off of the field. The Cardinals love to shoot gaps which could be dangerous for the Cardinals as the opportunity will be there for Parker to break a long run.
The Steelers also need to utilize Mewelde Moore. The Cardinals blitz 39% of the time (same as the Steelers). Moore could be a valuable asset on screen and short passes. The Steelers also should not be scared to go to Moore if Parker is struggling. The Cardinals have struggled with runs up the middle and Moore could also expose the Cards in that area. Despite the need to establish the running game, the Steelers can still win without a productive running game.
2. Get Pressure to Warner: We have heard it all week about how good Kurt Warner is at beating the blitz.¬†Warner had the highest passer rating against the blitz this season and the Steelers who blitz 39% of the time, will have to get pressure on Warner from their front four. It appears the Steelers are going to play their basic 3-4 at the beginning of the game and see if the Cardinals can beat them before going to their Nickel and Dime packages on most downs. The Cardinals will try to spread the Steelers out. The Steelers need to dictate the play early in the game.¬†
3. Contain Larry Fitzgerald: The key for the Steelers will be containing wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Which limiting Fitzgerald is a must the Steelers can‚Äôt focus soley on Fitzgerald. The Steelers will need to be aggressive with Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin who will be motivated to have a big game. A worry I have for the Steelers is how passive they are at the line of scrimmage. The Steelers corners play too far off of the line of scrimmage at times and the Cardinals will look for short passes to exploit the Steelers. Linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison will be dropping into coverage quite often to break up the 5-7 yard passes.
4. Special Teams: Santonio Holmes has been a major playmaker in the punt return game during the playoffs. Holmes had a 67 yard Punt return touchdown against the Chargers and a 25 yard punt return against the Ravens. The Cardinals coverage teams are mediocre at best and that‚Äôs a complement. The opportunity could be there for Holmes to provide a big play for the Steelers for the third straight week. The Steelers on the other hand need to contain Cardinals punt return Steve Breaston.
Second year pro has 6 sacks in 3 career playoffs games. With Harrison expecting to be dropping into coverage quite often, Woodley could the difference maker in this game providing pressure on Warner.
Why we like the Steelers
The Arizona Cardinals are a great story playing the underdog rule this post-season but their season will not end up being a story book ending. The Steelers come into this game as clearly the better team. At the quarterback positions, two great quarterbacks are going to take the field. Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger are a combined 15-4 in their post-season career‚Äôs. Roethlisberger had the worst quarterback rating for a Super Bowl winning quarterback in Super Bowl XL. Roethlisberger is much more relaxed this time around and is determined to be a major factor in tonight‚Äôs game. Warner is having a magical playoff run but he hasn‚Äôt faced a defense like the Steelers this season. Look for Warner and safety Troy Polamalu to play a cat and mouse game. Warner is going to try to stay away from Polamalu like Ben Roethlisberger did last week with Ravens safety Ed Reed.
The difference in this game is for the Steelers they can win without establishing much of a running game. Their defense and quarterback are that good. A productive running game is a bonus for the Steelers tonight. The Cardinals on the other hand will have to establish the running game to win this game. I just don‚Äôt see that happening.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 31 ‚Äì Arizona 20