... they can contain Larry Fitzgerald.
It has been the talk all week long in Tampa, just how are Troy Polamalu(above), Ryan Clark, Deshea Townsend, Ike Taylor and company going to stop the runway train that is Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals' go-to receiver enters the game with a postseason record for receiving yards, and carried his team past the Eagles.
The Steelers' defense is stronger and tougher than that of Philadelphia's, and has the league's best safety not named Ed Reed, in Polamalu. He has stressed all week that the challenge of stopping Fitzgerald will be a major factor on the outcome of the game, and seems poised to make the adjustments that Brian Dawkins and the Philly D struggled to.
"Anytime a defense gets beat deep, anytime an offense can get on top of any coverage, it changes the aspect of any game. We've been fortunate enough not to give up too many big plays which has helped the defense out quite a bit this year. And it will be a big deciding factor at the winner of this game."
To make matters worse for the Steel Curtain II, Anquan Boldin will be healthier in the Super Bowl than the NFC Title Game, and thus disabling excessive double teaming tactics on Fitzgerald. If they are to cover both Pro-Bowl wideouts, the Pittsburgh front seven will need to pressure Warner, which will be a difficult obstacle considering the Cardinals' O-line has only given 24 sacks in over 600 pass attempts this season.
If they can slow down Fitzgerald and force the hand of Todd Haley to make Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower the focus of the Arizona attack, you got to like the Steelers' chances Sunday in Tampa.
...Mike Tomlin doesn't get out-coached.
Tomlin's lone Super Bowl experience gave him a ring at Super Bowl XXXVII with the 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs. As luck would have it, his current Steelers' bunch has led him back to the place where he coached under Jon Gruden, coaching the Buccaneers' defensive backs.
Tomlin should be able to use the preparation for that Super Bowl in containing JerryRice and Tim Brown to this week's scenario. He's been there before, and if treats the game that way, then he should be able to
...Ben Roethlisberger is unfazed by the Cardinals' agressive defense.
Throughout the regular season, the Cards' D was obliterated by strong attacking teams like New England, Philadelphia, and New York, but for some reason, their tone has changed along with the new year. Their ability to pressure the quarterback has been stellar, forcing the hands of rookie Matt Ryan, making Jake Delhomme look silly, and for much of the game with the Eagles, Donovan McNabb was ineffective.
Should Roethlisberger counter their schemes with screens to Willie Parker, Heath Miller, and Santonio Holmes, crossing patterns to Hines Ward could open up. Big Ben was poised and confident against Ed Reed and Ray Lewis's Ravens Defense, and if he can stay manageable like he did with them, he should fine the holes in the Cardinal's armour.
...they can stay healthy.
Hines Ward will be back from a knee injury, and Roethlisberger has had bouts with hard hits in the playoffs. At both receiver and quarterback, the Cardinals offer more depth, and so then health of the Steelers is crucial. To help with Ward's knee, Holmes, Miller, and Limas Sweed will need to step up.
Photo: SOHH Sports