Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why The Steelers Will Win The Super Bowl

This marks part two of our Stars and Slights Super Bowl preview XLIII preview. Justin already provided his insights in the "Why The Cardinals Will Win" edition and now it is time for the Steel Curtain edition.

Why The Steelers Will Win The Super Bowl

It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers have long since been known for their aggressive, blitzing defense. From the days of Jack Ham and "Mean" Joe Greene to the days of Troy Polamalu and James Harrison the Steelers defense has asserted itself as a pestering, fearless and dominant force in the National Football League.

This year's  group is, statistically, one of the best in the history of the black and gold. The Steelers finished the regular season ranked 1st in the NFL in Total Yards per Game (237.2), Total Pass Yards per Game (156.9), and Total Points per Game (13.9) while finishing a measly 2nd in Rush Yards per Game (80.3).

Even though the Pittsburgh offense is not a juggernaut they are equipped with plenty of star power. Say what you want about Ben Roethlisberger but he finished in the top twenty in 5 passing categories and knows how to distribute the ball in the Steelers offense.

Big Ben is in his fifth year in the NFL and has already played in one Super Bowl, a 21-10 Steelers victory in Jerome Bettis' final game of his career in Super Bowl XL.

No single aspect of Ben's game stands out more than his surprising mobility. He has uncanny field awareness once the pocket collapses and its scramble or fry time. His ability to extend plays while waiting for receivers to get open is an invaluable segment of the Steelers playbook.

Willie Parker missed 5 games this season but still managed 4 games with 100+ rushing yards. Mewelde Moore and Carey Davis also serve as respectable running game support.

Danger also roams outside the hash marks and down field as Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Nate Washington can score seemingly at will. An X factor in the receiving game is Limas Sweed, who has dropped several passes this year. If the Cardinals lock down on the aforementioned trio the fate of the Steelers offense could lie in his hands (assuming he can hang on to the ball).

There is no doubt that the Steelers will utilize some combination of tight ends Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, either. These two men are pivotal members of the Steelers system and are reliable passing options.

Unlike the Cardinals, the Steelers never lost two games in a row during the regular season. They started off hot by winning 5 of their first 6, lost the next 2 of 3, and then 6 out of their final 7.

Pittsburgh won comfortably in the divisional playoff round against the Chargers 35-24 and again one week later in the AFC Championship versus the Ravens 23-14.

The matchup between the Cardinals and Steelers is not without an intriguing side story. Current Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt was the Steelers offensive coordinator when Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XL as a 6 seed (the only seed of its kind to ever do so) in 2005. Whisenhunt was passed over for current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin when then head coach Bill Cowher retired after the 2006 season.

Fast forward to the present and the road once diverged will rejoin paths once again this Sunday, February 1, 2009.

The matchup to watch is the Cardinals receivers versus the Steelers secondary. Larry Fitzgerald has been on fire lately and is a bona-fide super star. He was selected for his 3rd pro bowl this season, has recorded 5 straight 100+ yard receiving games (including the postseason), and had a monster 3 TD performance in the Cardinals' 32-25 against the Eagles in the NFC Championship.

Kurt Warner is not nearly as mobile now at the ripe age of 37 as he was 8 years ago when he last played in the big game, a 20-17 loss for Warner's St. Louis Rams to the New England Patriots. 

Look for an attacking Steelers defense to frustrate Warner all night by forcing him out of the pocket to make unbalanced throws on the run.

History might also be on the Steelers' side. In 2005, the Pittsburgh team honored Jerome Bettis by wearing throwback green #6 ND jerseys for their media day in Detroit for Super Bowl XL. This time around, the entire Steelers offensive line each wore #63 uniforms on Tuesday during Super Bowl XLIII Media Day in honor of the former great Pittsburgh Center Dermontti Dawson.

Offensive lineman Trai Essex had the following to say about the jerseys:
We wanted to do our part to push Dermontti, one of the greatest centers to ever play the game, into the Hall of Fame. We thought he should be in there already. His credentials speak for themselves. He doesn’t need this, but we want to do our part. We want to get one of our own in there. He is a very deserving guy.
Remember what happened the last time the Steelers paid a similar tribute? Victory, sweet victory.

Above and beyond these side stories,  although Super Bowl XLIII will be hard-pressed to live up to last year's exhilarating performance this will be a truly exciting matchup of offensive firepower versus defensive clout.

Safe money pits the Steelers as champions because, as the cliche goes, defense wins championships.


Steel Curtain 27

Cards 17

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