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|01-21-2009, 07:08 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
Join Date: Oct 2008
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It's Curtains for Cardinals
It's Curtains for Cardinals
Tuesday, January 20th 2009, 11:53 PM
Troy Polamalu clinches spot in Super Bowl with interception return for TD against Ravens. Shamus/Getty
Troy Polamalu clinches spot in Super Bowl with interception return for TD against Ravens.
Never would have mistaken Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for a poetry enthusiast, let alone a Robert Frost fan. But Tomlin quoted Frost in his comments to his players following their punishing victory over Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field on Sunday night.
"I told them we have miles to go before we sleep," Tomlin said.
Well there is the travel to Tampa to face Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1. And there is the effort to devise a game plan against a team whose staff might as well be Steelers West. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt spent six seasons with the Steelers before taking the Arizona job in 2007. Whisenhunt was Bill Cowher's offensive coordinator when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in Detroit three seasons ago. Eight of Whisenhunt's assistant coaches have Steeler connections. Arizona defeated the Steelers, 21-14, in the most recent meeting in 2007.
"It's going to be emotional for us," said Steelers tackle Max Starks. "Those are the coaches I won my last Super Bowl with. But it's going to be old school vs. new school. I think it's going to be a challenge."
Forget the past. Forget the familiarity of the Cardinals' coaching staff with the Steelers personnel. Arizona's magical ride will come to a crashing halt when the Cardinals run into the Steelers' No.1 ranked defense.
This will be Pittsburgh's seventh trip to the Super Bowl, second-most in NFL history. The Steelers trail only Dallas, which has been to eight. And with five championships, the Steelers are tied with Dallas and San Francisco for the most in the league.
Arizona's Super Bowl history isn't spotty. It's non-existent. This will be the Cardinals' first Super Bowl trip. The Cardinals won the NFL championship in 1947. That's a long time between drinks from the championship cup.
Tomlin isn't hoisting the trophy yet.
"They are a well-coached outfit. It is obvious that they have a great deal of belief in what they are doing," Tomlin said. "They are playing great football. You don't get to this game unless you are. We respect them, we also respect the process that we believe will get us ready for combat."
The two best teams in the NFL this year were the Giants and the Steelers. I thought they would meet in the Super Bowl. The Giants got away from what made them great all season - a punishing rushing attack, an attacking pressure-packed defense and a mistake-free performance from quarterback Eli Manning - when they lost in the divisional playoff round to the Eagles.
The Steelers have remained true to their credo: You hit us, we're going to hit you back harder, and keep hitting you until you don't get up anymore. And they keep getting a cool, efficient but not spectacular performance from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will be playing in his second Super Bowl in five years.
In case you missed the AFC title game - and I don't blame you if you couldn't sit through a four-hour football game - it was a black-and-blue affair. The Ravens are as tough a bunch as the NFL cranks out, and the Steelers were planting them in the Heinz Field turf like tulips. I think they'll be coming up in the spring. The Ravens hung around until they made one too many mistakes. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw an interception that safety Troy Polamalu returned 40 yards for a touchdown and the final margin of victory.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau devised a battle plan that was heavy on trickery and the players executed it with brutal efficiency.
"We're the No.1 defense, there's a reason," said Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend. "If we can make you one-dimensional and make you rely on passing the ball we can be successful. Coach LeBeau has a lot up his sleeve. He can draw up things to make veteran quarterbacks confused."
LeBeau will have a week to come up with something equally difficult for Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, who is deadly when given time to find his big target, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald single-handedly destroyed the Eagles for a half.
Polamalu was asked whether this defense was better than the one that the Steelers took into the Super Bowl after the 2005 season.
"Without a doubt this is the best defense that I've ever played on, but we'll see what happens in next game," Polamalu said. "I think that's going to solidify how good we are. This team had to rely more on the defense. We had to make a lot more big plays. We caused and forced a lot more turnovers than in the past."
Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley will spend this week trying to figure out ways to get Fitzgerald free to do his thing. LeBeau, a defensive wizard, will have a week to figure out how to stop it. In that kind of physical chess match, you have to like the Steelers.
|01-21-2009, 07:40 AM||#2|
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Re: It's Curtains for Cardinals
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