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Old 01-29-2009, 06:23 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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It might not be whether Pittsburgh's defense can hold down Arizona's offense, but by how much. Dick LeBeau issues goals to his defense and each game they enter with a goal of holding the opposing offense to 17 points.

They figure if they do that, they have a high chance of winning. Five times the past season, opponents scored more than 17 points against the Steelers, although not all of those points came against their defense. The Steelers lost three of those games and another went into overtime before they won.

Against the Cardinals' dynamic offense, that goal might have to be stretched somewhat. But by how much - 20, 24, 27? That would put more pressure on Pittsburgh's offense to ring up some points, and the Steelers have had a spotty record of that this season.

Pittsburgh ranked 20th in the NFL with an average of 21.7 points per game during the regular season. Arizona, though, ranked 28th in the NFL with an average allowed of 26.6 points per game

The pressure might not be on the Steelers defense to stop Arizona's productive offense as much as it will be on their own offense to produce more than it has much of the season. And that will mean the Steelers need a good game from their quarterback, certainly better than the Super Bowl he played three years ago. The Steelers beat Seattle, 21-10, almost in spite of Ben Roethlisberger. He had a terrible game, the worst of any winning Super Bowl quarterback. He completed nine of 21 passes, threw two interceptions, had no touchdown passes and a 22.6 passer rating.

He's determined to turn that around against Arizona on Sunday.

"I treated it like a big game the first time and it didn't work out so well for me," Roethlisberger said. "I'm going to try to treat it like it's a normal game. You know what's going on and you know it's more than just that, but I'm just going to come out here and have fun on Sunday."

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Roethlisberger cannot go into the game thinking it's all on his shoulders and thus try to do more than he normally does.

"Yes, that would be dangerous and that doesn't have to happen. He has 10 guys out there with him every time on every play and let them all do their job. And I think that is what he's done so well this whole season - let the game come to him, don't force it. Even in the no-huddle he has done a great job of managing it and attacking. One thing is playing scared and another is playing smart and he plays smart."

Two things loom over the Steelers offense entering the Super Bowl — their running game and Hines Ward's right knee. How healthy will each be? Willie Parker certainly is healthy, and has two 100-yard efforts in his past three games. But the Steelers ranked only 23rd on the ground this season, the second-lowest in their AFC history.

Ward's knee has been the biggest question of the week. He plans to play, but if he cannot push off his right leg, it would be a major factor for the Steelers.

SERIES HISTORY: First meeting in the postseason. Steelers lead the all-time regular-season series 32-23-3. They last met in Arizona in the fourth game of the 2007 season and the Cardinals won, 21-14, in a meeting of rookie head coaches, Ken Whisenhunt of Arizona and Mike Tomlin of Pittsburgh. The teams have played just eight times since the Steelers joined the AFC in the 1970 NFL merger and Pittsburgh won five of them. The franchises combined their rosters in 1944 and performed as Card-Pitt, finishing with a 0-10 record. It's the only winless season in "Steelers" history.

NOTES, QUOTES

—Garrett Giemont, the Steelers' conditioning coach, was a young assistant trainer on the 1979 Los Angeles Rams staff. The Rams were the last team to reach the Super Bowl after a 9-7 regular season record before these Cardinals did it. L.A.'s opponent in that Super Bowl XIV was Pittsburgh, which went on to win 31-19 for the Steelers' fourth championship in six seasons.

"I don't think a whole lot of people gave us a whole lot of a chance," Giemont said. "The Steelers obviously during that decade were a dominant football team and the Rams that year ... probably wasn't the best football team we had in recent times. But it was a pretty good game."

— The Steelers' offensive linemen wore jerseys of former center Dermontti Dawson's No. 63 after media day Tuesday to honor their former teammate. Dawson, who retired after the 2000 season, is among the 15 modern finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

—Steelers owner Dan Rooney on the hiring of Mike Tomlin two years ago: "Mike Tomlin was not part of the Rooney Rule. We had already interviewed Ron Rivera, and so that fulfilled the obligation."

Mike Tomlin on whether the Rooney Rule was a factor in his hiring: "Sure it is one of the reasons."

The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for a head coaching vacancy.

—Tomlin has taken an aggressive approach in the playoffs, particularly on offense with some fake punts and going for it on fourth-and-1 rather than kicking a field goal.

"One thing that we won't do is coach scared or play scared," Tomlin said. "That didn't get us here. We are going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers and maintain our personality in that regard. We are going to do what we feel is necessary for us to win."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not big on change. We've only had three coaches in the last 40 years. When you look around you see the coaching carousel go around, but it's rare that you will see that in Pittsburgh." - WR Hines Ward.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Amid rumors that he was considering retirement, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, 71, told his players he plans to remain as their coach.

"I would never make any kind of decision without the guys in that room, like my son, knowing first," LeBeau told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "The way they're playing, they're going to have to run me out of here."

LeBeau has been in the NFL 50 years, 14 as a player and 36 as a coach.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

— WR Hines Ward needs 34 yards receiving to become the Steelers' career leader for postseason receiving yards. John Stallworth leads with 1,054.

— OT Trai Essex, who also plays guard, has been practicing some at center the past few weeks.

— CB William Gay, who has been alternating with starter Bryant McFadden, might not see the field as often Sunday because he's at least two inches shorter than McFadden, who is 6-feet. None of Arizona's receivers is shorter than 6-feet.

— DE Brett Keisel, who had only one sack in the regular season, has one sack in the playoffs.

— QB Byron Leftwich has played in five games and thrown 36 passes this season as Ben Roethlisberger's backup. He has two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 104.3 passer rating.

GAME PLAN: The Steelers hope to run the ball, keep the chains moving and keep Arizona's offense on the bench. They trust Ben Roethlisberger to throw, however, if they need to amp up the offense. On defense, they will concentrate on stopping RB Edgerrin James and keeping pressure up the middle on QB Kurt Warner. Look for some more Cover-2 play to prevent the deep passes.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

—CB Ike Taylor vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: Taylor often has covered the best opponent receivers and none comes better than Fitzgerald.

—Arizona RT Levi Brown vs. Steelers LOLB LaMarr Woodley: The two went at it in the Big Ten and Woodley had 2.0 sacks in their final meeting.

—Arizona PR Steve Breaston vs. P Mitch Berger and Steelers coverage team. Breaston, a Pittsburgh native, returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown against the Steelers in a 2007 victory.

—RB Willie Parker vs. Cards MLB Gerald Hayes, who played at Pitt, and OLB Karlos Dansby, their leading tackler.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Hines Ward was the only player who did not practice on Wednesday. He has a slight MCL sprain in his right knee from the AFC Championship Game. He ran and cut in practice Wednesday afternoon and is scheduled to practice Thursday.




Find this article at:
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/footb...ome.htm?csp=34
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