The 2002 St. Louis Rams, the 2003 Oakland Raiders and last season’s New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVII were easily the three most prolific offensive units in football history, but all three clubs succumbed to three more consistent defensive orientated clubs.
First, the Steelers have not allowed a single opponent three hundred yards of offense on the season and have established themselves as football’s premier defensive unit.
Secondly the Cardinals running game, although greatly improved in recent weeks, does not offer the necessary offensive balance, thus putting added pressure on the Cardinals immobile quarterback Kurt Warner to control the tempo of the game. If the Cardinals running game stalls early, look for the Steelers defense to put the Cardinals into some bad down and distance situations.
The Steelers big game experience is a very important and highly underrated critical factor. How a young inexperienced Cardinals club responds to the game pressures, particular early on, is still very much an unknown factor, but could play a key role Sunday evening.
Many experts predict that the Cardinal will employ a no huddle offense, thus forcing them to play in their base defense. The problem with that theory is the fact that the Steelers personnel package in their base defense is far superior to any of their sub-packages in nickel or dime. It could also greatly affect the time of possession battle.
The Cardinals have played exceptionally well in their post-season playoff run, but I still can’t get over the fact that the Cardinals were zero for five on games played on the East Coast. What’s more disturbing is that in these five losses the point in these games margin in these five games was a whopping forty points per game!
Two other factors that are still undetermined are whether the Cardinals offensive line has the personnel to match up favorably against this hard-charging Steelers pass rush. Even though as a group they surrendered just 26 sacks in the season, I really have my doubts about the Cardinals tackle combo of left tackle Mike Gandy and Levi Brown versus the Steelers outside pass rushing duo of LaMarr Woodley and one the leagues top outside pass rushers in James Harrison. What contributes to their effectiveness is the play of the Steelers “five techniques” Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, two of the most underrated defenders in the NFL. Nose tackle Casey Hampton is an immovable force on the inside.
The final reason the Steelers will win Super Bowl XLIII has to do with Kurt Warner inability to throw the football effectively outdoors, particularly in inclement weather.
Much like the 1999 St. Louis Rams, the Cardinals road to football’s top prize was more the result of their ineptness over the past decade rather than their ability to make sound organizational decision, but none the less, the club through their consistently favorable annual draft positions have assembled a group of some very impressive people particularly on the defensive side of the football including Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and rookie Dominique Cromartie-Rodgers, but individual playing skills don’t always transfer into a cohesive defensive unit. The Cardinals have the people to one day develop into a solid defensive unit, but after watching them perform in losses to the Jets, Patriots and Eagles, I don’t believe they are near that stage at this time.
It should be a competitive match-up early, but look for the veteran Steelers squad to first ride the right arm of Ben Roethlisberger, the legs of a rested Willie Parker, win the time of possession and turn-over battles, and ultimately the game.
Steelers 28 – Cardinals 13