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Old 01-19-2009, 07:19 AM   #1
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Default Are Cardinals steeling themselves to pull an upset?

SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL
Are Cardinals steeling themselves to pull an upset?
http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-...6767398.column

Super Bowl XLIII matchup might look like a blowout on paper, but on the field Arizona is capable of beating Pittsburgh, especially if it plays the way it did Sunday.
Sam Farmer

January 19, 2009

Reporting from Glendale, Ariz. On the surface, this Super Bowl is a super blowout.

It's steel versus sandstone.

Road graders versus roadrunners.

Iron City versus Sun City.

But the Arizona Cardinals are capable of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. And, if they play the way they did Sunday, they will.

The Cardinals have gotten their dose of disrespect -- including in this space -- but they have proved over the last three weeks that they are the NFL's team to beat, having knocked off Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia when all were at the top of their game.

Now comes their toughest opponent. It's also their most familiar. In fact, the Cardinals have so many Pittsburgh connections on their roster and coaching staff -- at least 16 -- they might as well reside on the other end of the Fort Pitt Tunnel from the Steelers. Some of those connections are loose -- receiver Steve Breaston grew up in the Pittsburgh area, for instance -- but others are intimate links to the Steelers.

Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, Arizona's head coach and his No. 1 assistant, both were Steelers assistants who interviewed for the top job there before Mike Tomlin was hired. When neither Whisenhunt nor Grimm got the Pittsburgh job, they headed for Arizona and teamed up.

They know that Steelers team, its many strengths and its few-and-far-between soft spots. Pittsburgh was undefeated when it came to Arizona in Week 4 last season. But the Steelers left with a 21-14 loss, a game in which the Cardinals picked off two Ben Roethlisberger passes and sacked him four times.

"It's obviously a special win for me to beat the Steelers," Whisenhunt said at the time, "but I don't have any animosity toward that football team. . . . The thing that I'm the proudest about is that our football team beat a good football team that nobody gave us a chance to do."

When Whisenhunt was asked Sunday if he'd like to play the Steelers again, he didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely," he said.

And now he'll get the chance.

Super Bowl familiarity can be a scary thing. Just ask those Oakland Raiders who were stomped in the big game six years ago by their former coach, Jon Gruden, and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Todd Haley knows the Steelers too. He's the brilliant offensive coordinator for the Cardinals, the coach whose play-calling helped Kurt Warner pick apart the normally watertight Philadelphia defense.

"I think Philadelphia and the Giants are as good as it gets defensively in the NFC, so I'm very proud to put up 32 points against them," Haley said in a phone interview after learning the Cardinals will play Pittsburgh. "But this will be the real deal. I don't think there's anybody better than Pittsburgh, from what I've seen."

Haley was a Steelers ball boy, and his dad, Dick Haley, was the team's longtime personnel director. He helped that franchise piece together its dynasty teams of the 1970s. He drafted Hall of Famers Jack Lambert, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and others.

The younger Haley is a big reason Warner has been so successful this season, and why the Cardinals are more often in second-and-manageable situations than third-and-long jams.

Warner's most dangerous weapon is receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a former University of Pittsburgh star who has 23 catches for 419 yards and five touchdowns in three postseason games. That surpasses the previous NFL postseason yardage record of 409 by San Francisco's Jerry Rice in 1988 -- and Fitzgerald still has a game to go.

For fellow Cardinals receiver Breaston, the thought of playing Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl is surreal. He was a huge Steelers fan as a kid and can recall some very specific moments in that team's history.

"I was always watching on TV," he said. "It brings families together. When they played Dallas in the Super Bowl, you're sitting around watching, and everybody's as emotional as the people on the field. When they lost the Super Bowl that year [1996], the body language of my family . . . just everything was sad.

"There were a lot of Terrible Towels lying around my house."

Across the Arizona locker room, one of Breaston's teammates shared a very different story from his youth. Defensive end Bertrand Berry was talking about winning a Super Bow -- a peewee Super Bowl, that is, in his hometown of Humble, Texas.

"I said at the press conference [when I signed] that I was going to help this team win a Super Bowl, and I showed them my patch from 1986," said Berry, who also kept his childhood team jersey. "I've still got it in my locker. I look at it every day."

The name of his championship peewee team?

The Cardinals.

sam.farmer@latimes.com
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Old 01-19-2009, 07:25 AM   #2
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Default Re: Are Cardinals steeling themselves to pull an upset?

I almost wish we weren't favored to win the Super Bowl because as we all know, the underdog role can sometimes be a very powerful motivator. Wiz's familiarity with the Steelers players and system may also be a problem, and hopefully both Papa Lebeau and Arians are hard at work in their kitchens coming up with some very new and exciting recipes for their respective units.
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Old 01-19-2009, 07:30 AM   #3
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Default Re: Are Cardinals steeling themselves to pull an upset?

This game is going to come down to Whiz vs LeBeau.
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Old 01-19-2009, 07:51 AM   #4
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Default Re: Are Cardinals steeling themselves to pull an upset?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lambertfan99 View Post
I really don't think it is a fair comparison to Tampa/raiders. Everybody knows that was Gruden Vs. Gruden. Raiders had not changed anything since Gruden left, how stupid to think you could beat him with his offense. Anyhow I think our D changes enough from year to year that Whiz will have no major insight to what they are doing. And hell no one knows what BA is going to do on any given Sunday. I think Harrison and Woodley will be all over Warner and we know he can't handle that.
I'd rather turn the experiece question around. How much insight will LaBeau have into Whiz since they were on the same staff? I'm also sure that Tomlin could call up Cowher and have a little chat with him about Whiz.
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