Steelers hope to hold Fitzgerald at bay, win sixth Super Bowl title

Kyle Beck

Kyle Beck

In early 2007, the Pittsburgh Steelers organization was faced with a difficult task: who would succeed Bill Cowher as only the third head coach for the Steelers since 1969. Because of coaching vacancies elsewhere (including Arizona and Miami), the Steelers’ decision was undoubtedly going to echo throughout the league.

The front-runners for the job were well-respected offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm. Whisenhunt was seen as the likely successor for Cowher, both within the organization and throughout the NFL. Hiring Whisenhunt would also almost guarantee keeping Grimm, a popular coach among Steelers players. Long-shot candidate Mike Tomlin, defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, was also rumored to be in the mix.

After the Steelers’ front office spent more time interviewing the candidates than expected, Whisenhunt bolted for the head coaching gig at NFC doormat Arizona. About a week later, the Steelers announced the hiring of Tomlin over Grimm. Grimm joined Arizona shortly after to accept an assistant head coaching job with the Cardinals.

Since then, Whisenhunt has tried to bring Pittsburgh football to Arizona. Currently, Arizona has a good number of coaches and role players that used to be with the Steelers. The Cardinals have become somewhat of a ‘Diet-Pittsburgh’ during Whisenhunt’s tenure with the club. It has obviously come with good results: the Cardinals find themselves in position to win their first championship since 1947 – currently the longest drought in the NFL.

Being so closely related to Pittsburgh gives Arizona some serious advantages. Many of the Steelers that Whisenhunt coached during Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl run are still with the team. Whisenhunt and company know those players’ strengths and weaknesses, and you can be sure that the Cardinals staff will try to exploit as many of those weaknesses as possibly during Super Bowl XLIII. During last year’s regular season meeting between these two teams, Arizona took advantage of this insider information and beat Pittsburgh 21-14. That game may not have made much difference in the standings, but you can be sure that it was an important victory for Whisenhunt and his staff.

The disadvantage for the Cardinals becoming ‘Diet-Pittsburgh’ is that they are now matched up against the original Pittsburgh. The Steelers hold an obvious advantage in playing the style of football they have been accustomed to for decades.

The Cardinals are clearly the underdogs in Super Bowl XLIII. But after being declared as the worst team to ever make the playoffs by one analyst and being picked by many – including myself – to lose every step of the playoffs they have taken, they find themselves in position to be the champions of the NFL. It may not be smart to underestimate them again.


Steelers 27 ? Cardinals 13

Arizona’s O and Pittsburgh’s D play evenly throughout the first half. Ben Roethlisberger gives the Steelers a lead in the third quarter that proves too much for the Cardinals to come back from. Steelers SS Troy Polamalu is named Super Bowl MVP.

Matchups to Watch

Cardinals’ WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Steelers’ CB Ike Taylor.

Both players are having their best years as pros this season. Fitzgerald, however, is a monster right now and will be tough to cover. Expect the Steelers to drape a safety over the top of Fitzgerald so their corners and linebackers can help stop the underneath crossing routes Fitzgerald has killed previous teams with.

Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cardinals’ FS Antrel Rolle

In Super Bowl XL, Roethlisberger struggled. Look for him to rebound with a strong performance in Super Bowl XLIII. Rolle has excelled since making the move from CB to FS this year. If the Cardinals want to win, Rolle will have to have a big game in pass coverage.


Steelers’ LB LaMarr Woodley

With the Cardinals probably paying more attention to defensive MVP James Harrison rushing QB Kurt Warner on the other side, Woodley could prove to be the game’s most important player. Warner gets rid of the ball quickly, but if Woodley pressures him into rushing some throws, it could be a long game for Arizona.