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Old 01-24-2009, 11:25 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default The road to Tampa: Storied Steelers go for six

http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn...c.php?t=510474

The road to Tampa: Storied Steelers go for six

January 24, 2009

Vinnie Iyer

If there is any NFL franchise synonymous with the Super Bowl, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Two weeks from now in Tampa, they will be making their seventh appearance in the big game and looking for an unprecedented sixth title.

From Terry Bradshaw to Ben Roethlisberger, Chuck Noll to Mike Tomlin, the Rooney family has been blessed with a special football tradition. The Cowboys may have more glitz and glamour, but with a blend of grit and mettle that matches their blue-collar home city, the Steelers are the real America's Team. (Finally someone in the media gets it. - mesa)

Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu and other veterans already helped Pittsburgh get "one for the thumb" three years ago against Seattle at Detroit's Ford Field. To start putting rings on the other hand, they will need to beat another team from the NFC West.

The Steelers are 7-point favorites, but they can't just rest on their winning history to cool off the red-hot Cardinals.

Three things we've learned

1. Big Ben has developed into a great big-game quarterback. Roethlisberger's arm, mobility and toughness clearly made the difference in the Steelers' 23-14 victory over hard-hitting archrival Baltimore in the AFC championship game. No matter how many hits and sacks he takes, he gets right back up to make critical plays when Pittsburgh needs him to deliver the most.

Take it from Ravens coach John Harbaugh: "He's probably the most accurate quarterback on the run in the league right now. There are just a lot of things to defend with Ben." The Cardinals' No. 1 defensive objective in Tampa will be to keep Roethlisberger in the pocket.

2. Their defense is fast and furious. Led by Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison flying upfield from outside linebacker, the Steelers have the league's best defense because it stays on the attack like no other unit.

As usual, their iron will allows them to consistently stuff the run. Against Dick LeBeau's 3-4 zone blitz scheme and a well-coached coverage unit, opponents have little time and room to pass. In Polamalu, they also have the ultimate wild card to wreak havoc on Arizona's aerial game plan.

3. They love playing for Mike Tomlin. The Steelers hired Tomlin to pick up where Bill Cowher left off, and the 36-year-old coach has done just that. Tomlin is an emotionally charged motivator, and his players respond by showing great focus and energy in every game.

Three things we still don't know

1. Which running game will show up? In their divisional playoff win over San Diego, the Steelers racked up 165 rushing yards. Against Baltimore, they managed 52. The Cardinals have done a good job of taking away the run during the postseason. Pittsburgh needs Parker to show the burst he did in Super Bowl 40 to help take pressure off Roethlisberger. (Well the Ratbird D is just a little bit better and the Chargers D and either are better than the Cardinals D. - mesa)

2. Can their cornerbacks handle Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? The best way to stop the Cardinals' elite wide receivers is by swarming Kurt Warner with the pass rush. The Steelers' secondary was called twice for pass interference against the Ravens, and those penalties led to two touchdowns that kept Baltimore in the game. The Steelers need to get physical with Fitzgerald and Boldin while also avoiding flags -- a tough task.

3. What happens when they get into a shootout? Because of their defense, the Steelers haven't played in a competitive high-scoring game this season. The Cardinals have been on a 30-plus-points roll in the playoffs, and their best bet is to air it out often with Warner and see if Pittsburgh has the firepower to match.

Offensive MVP

WR Santonio Holmes. He has made only two big plays in the postseason, but they were key in setting the early tone in wins over the Chargers and Ravens. His dazzling 67-yard punt return for a touchdown gave his team first-quarter life against San Diego, and his 65-yard catch and run against Baltimore provided Pittsburgh with a 13-0 second-quarter lead. The Cardinals know about Holmes, who caught six passes for 128 yards and two TDs in the Steelers' 21-14 loss at Arizona in 2007.

Defensive MVP

OLB LaMarr Woodley. Harrison has drawn plenty of attention on the opposite edge, which has helped Woodley break free to the quarterback. He sacked Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco twice each and will be hungry to get another pair against Warner.

X-factor

TE Heath Miller. Miller had three big catches for 62 yards against the Ravens, and the Cardinals had all sorts of problems with Eagles tight end Brent Celek (10 catches, 83 yards, two TDs) on Sunday.

Why they can be Super again in Tampa

For the Steelers and their legions of fans, only two things go together better than Black and Gold -- defense and a championship.

In Tampa, that means maintaining their relentless pass rush to rattle Warner and make the Cards fold.

Vinnie Iyer is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

Last edited by mesaSteeler; 01-24-2009 at 11:48 PM.
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Old 01-24-2009, 11:59 PM   #2
silverbackattack
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Default Re: The road to Tampa: Storied Steelers go for six

Is it me or is Vinnie lacking talent in his writing style. Nothing like writing the obvious.

Like other posts here right now, I would live to hear what Myron would say about this. He would have quite the poem, unmatched under any circumstance.
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