Matchups for the Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals at Raymond James Stadium:

Matchups for the Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals at Raymond James Stadium:

When the Steelers have the ball Just as the Steelers of the 1970s evolved from a run-it-down-your-throat offense to a more versatile mode, this group has balanced its attack. Indeed, when RB Willie Parker (39) couldn’t find much room against Baltimore in the AFC championship game, QB Ben Roethlisberger (7) took control. And the Cardinals’ defense, while quite stout for most of three postseason victories, hardly is on the level of the Ravens.

Pittsburgh will turn to Parker early, particularly seeking to draw Arizona’s standout safety, Adrian Wilson (24) closer to the line. If successful, the Steelers will keep pounding Parker, Mewelde Moore (21) and Gary Russell (33) but also will mix in some medium-range and deep throws to playmaker Santonio Holmes (10). Holmes’ 65-yard catch and run TD was the major offensive play in the AFC title game, and his contributions would be even more vital should fellow wideout Hines Ward (86) be limited or out with a knee injury.

More likely, the warrior Ward will play – and play well. He was the MVP of Pittsburgh 2006 Super Bowl win.

Arizona’s secondary has performed inconsistently in the playoffs but has made seven interceptions, led by two each from Rod Hood (26) and rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (29). ARC could wind up with lots of solo coverage on Holmes, particularly if Ward is hobbled.

Steelers TE Heath Miller (83) has been a clutch performer and favorite target for Roethlisberger. His matchups with Wilson, Antrel Rolle (21) and Aaron Francisco (41), plus the linebackers, might be telling.

Arizona’s LBs have been very active in the playoffs, notably Karlos Dansby (58) and Gerald Hayes (54). Again, though, they aren’t in Baltimore’s class.

Roethlisberger often holds the ball too long, and he was sacked four times by the Ravens. Arizona has seven sacks in its three playoff games, with DEs Bertrand Berry (92) and Antonio Smith (94) providing the best pass rush and DT Darnell Dockett (90) being disruptive in all phases. They should find ways of pressuring Big Ben against an inconsistent offensive line that includes tackles Willie Colon (74) and Max Starks (78), guards Darnell Stapleton (72) and Chris Kemoeatu (68).


To read the rest of this article, subscribe to our digital or paper edition. For previous editions, contact us for details.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

comments – Add Yours