View Full Version : An early breakdown of Super Bowl XLIII

01-20-2009, 06:39 AM
An early breakdown of Super Bowl XLIII
by Peter Schrager
Peter Schrager is a frequent contributor for FOXSports.com. You can e-mail him at PeterSchrager@gmail.com

America, are you ready for the Wiz Bowl?

That's what we've got in two weeks, a Super Bowl matchup littered with NFL incest and historical intrigue. The Arizona-Pittsburgh cross-pollination goes back to the winter of '06. When Bill Cowher called it a career in Pittsburgh after 16 years as head coach, the media all but assumed offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt or longtime offensive line coach Russ Grimm would take the reins. Keep it in-house, and continue the Steeler tradition.

Road to Super Bowl XLIII

Alas, the media were wrong. Mike Tomlin, a defensive coordinator with the Vikings for just one year, got the gig instead. An outsider, but a fresh face. Whisenhunt took the news (and rejection) in stride, eventually taking over for Dennis Green in Arizona as the new coach of the Cardinals. He brought Grimm also feeling the sting of rejection with him as his offensive line coach and assistant head coach. It would be "Steelers West" in Glendale.

Here we are, less than two years later, and coaches Wiz and Grimm are up against Mike Tomlin and the Steelers. Though some of the offensive personnel Whisenhunt and Grimm helped lead to a Super Bowl title in 2005 has changed over the past three years, the core Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Hines Ward, Heath Miller still remain. If any two men know those guys and their strengths and weaknesses it's Whisenhunt and Grimm.

If Raiders-Bucs was the Gruden Bowl, then Cardinals-Steelers is undoubtedly the Wiz Bowl. Giddy up.

Who's got the edge in Super Bowl XLIII? Let's do a VERY EARLY breakdown.

The last time they played

Last season, a 3-0 Steelers team made the trip out to Glendale for the first "Wiz Bowl." A true turning point of the Whisenhunt-era Cardinals took place in the third quarter of this one, as Kurt Warner replaced a struggling Matt Leinart early in the second half. Warner led the troops back, connecting with Jerheme Urban on a crucial 6-yard TD pass to tie the game at 7. Leinart would eventually return and help lead the Cardinals to their second win of the season. A quirky 21-14 win, it showed Arizona fans two things: One, the Cardinals could compete with the big boys, and two, Kurt Warner still had a little something left in that rocket arm of his. How much stock do you take in a Week 4 game that was played over a year ago? I'd say not much, but if you're in that Cardinals locker room, you at least know you can line up with the big dogs. Heck, you've done it before. And you've won.

The passing game

Who's got the edge at QB in this one? That's a tough one. Both Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger have won Super Bowls and enter this year's showdown playing at the top of their games. By leading Arizona to a conference championship and its first Super Bowl berth, Kurt Warner becomes the third quarterback to play in Super Bowls at least seven years apart (Craig Morton and John Elway are the other too). He's 7-2 in postseason games. So is Roethlisberger. As strong a few weeks as Big Ben's had, Warner's in an altogether different zone. It will take a Herculean effort from the Pittsburgh D to put the clamps on him and Larry Fitzgerald. Of course, if any unit can put one together, it's Dick Lebeau's Steel Curtain D.

The running game

The NFL is funny sometimes. For all those monster statistical seasons Edgerrin James had in Indianapolis, he never made it to a Super Bowl. Yet, here he is, an older and slower Edge, starting in the Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals. Considering James reportedly asked Arizona management to be released at the end of the season prior to this playoff run, it's even more amazing to consider No. 32 lining up in the backfield in Tampa two weeks from now. Alas, Arizona's a passing squad first and foremost. Though James, Tim Hightower and J.J. Arrington have more than carried the load this postseason, Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore and the suddenly solid Pittsburgh offensive line get the edge in this matchup.

The defense

The Cardinals have scored more than 30 points in all three of their playoff games. The Pittsburgh D gave up 30 points once all season -- to the Titans in Week 16.. What happens when lightning clashes with thunder? I'm not a meteorologist, so I have no idea, but that'll be the question on Feb. 1. Can the No. 1-ranked Pittsburgh D suffocate an offense that's been tearing up one top defense after another? We'll see. As for the Arizona D, it's been relentless over the past three weeks. Based on the entire season, though, Pittsburgh's gets the edge.

Special teams

Mitch Berger had a horrendous AFC Championship game and the Ravens had a few good punt returns. Jeff Reed's a Super Bowl champion kicker who seems to never miss in the clutch. Arizona, however, should have the edge in the special teams game in this one. Neil Rackers is one of the best kickers in the league, Ben Graham's had a solid postseason, and the special teams coverage led by Pro Bowler Sean Morey is arguably the best in the league.

The crowd

I was in Detroit for Super Bowl XL. Walking those streets for the entire week, I might as well have been in Pittsburgh. Steelers Nation simply overwhelmed the Motor City. You couldn't go anywhere without being smacked with Steelers Black and Gold. The Windsor Casino reeked of cigarettes, Iron City beer, and Hines Ward XXXL jerseys. I didn't see a Seahawks fan until Saturday. By the time the game started and Franco Harris was honored during pre-game, it was a sea of gold. Terrible Towels were everywhere. I understand the Arizona Cardinals fan base is into this team. I get that. But if they think for a second they'll even be somewhat noticeable in Tampa Bay next week, they're crazy. It'll be all Steelers Nation, all the time. Mark my words: Super Bowl XLIII will be a Pittsburgh home game.

The experience

Aside from Warner, the only Arizona Cardinals player to ever start in a Super Bowl is cornerback Rod Hood, who saw action for the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. Two guys with real Super Bowl experience that's it! This is fresh and new for all of the Cardinals. Edgerrin James played in several AFC Championship games with Indy, but never made the Big Show. Meanwhile, the Steelers are downright loaded with Super Bowl veterans. If Super Bowl experience means anything, Pittsburgh has an enormous edge.

What's Vegas saying

The early word out of Sin City? Pittsburgh's favored by 6 points. That's not showing much respect for the Arizona Cardinals. Then again, Arizona's been the underdog in all three of their playoff games thus far. The Cardinals had 45 to 1 odds to win the Super Bowl in March, and just 40 to 1 odds at the start of the postseason. Proximity means nothing, apparently. Vegas hates these Cardinals. No respect. Of course, for those who have put their money behind the Kurt Warner train throughout January, that's more than fine.

We've got two more weeks of analysis ahead of us. This is just the appetizer.

Like we said earlier ... Giddy up.

01-20-2009, 06:57 AM
After reading that I guess you would say Pittsburgh has the Edge not Arizona (as in Edgerin James) I think the key to this game is obvious.
1. Shut down the run ( shouldn't be a problem )
2. Pressure Warner ( I think they can )
3. Double fitzgerald ( Bouldin and Breaston will have to carry the load )
4. Get Willie some yards ( then use the playaction to burn the Redbirds )
5. Out physical them ( Play Steeler physical football )
6. Steeler Nation :tt03::tt03::tt03::tt03::tt03::tt03::tt03::tt03:

01-20-2009, 08:17 AM
Warner holds the ball out from his body when he has to move, especially out of the pocket. Watch for Woodley, Harrision or Palomalu to get a strip or two!