Super Bowl Preview

January 31, 2009

Every year the question for most fans is the same. Is this going to be a decent game? Of course, the loyal followings for both teams couldn't care less if the score is close, but for the rest of us we need some genuine competition to satisfy us. Last years's surprisingly great finish was about as good as it gets for the neutral fan and in my opinion, it will set up many of us up for a disappointment this time.

Here is the breakdown and pick for this year's Super Bowl. For anyone counting the's record is 11-4 in picking games this year.

THE BIG MATCHUP: Arizona Cardinals Offense v. Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

The Cardinals finished the 2008 regular season as the 4th best offense in Total Yards and Points Scored. This was largely based on their passing game (2nd in yards per game), which features the revitalized Kurt Warner and top receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. The talent at the wideout position clearly is a major plus for the Cardinals and if we assume Warner plays like he has been, the Cardinals should be able to put up some numbers on almost anybody.

During the season, the Cardinals largely abandoned the running game and finished last in the NFL with 73.6 yards per game. In the postseason, the Cardinals have made greater efforts to maintain a running game, averaging 111 yds/game. However, this was largely because they developed nice big leads in all of their postseason games. Furthermore, they only averaged 3.3 yards per rushing play. Both Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower averaged under 4 yds per carry.

The Steelers Defense finished 1st in points allowed and yards allowed. They were almost equally efficient against the pass (1st - 156.2 yds/game) and the run (2nd - 80.2 yds/game). The front seven is adept at consistently getting pressure on the quarterback, most notably linebackers James Harrison (16 sacks) and LaMarr Woodley (12 sacks). In the secondary, Troy Polamalu intercepted 7 passes and finished 3rd on the team in tackles.

The Steelers Defense continued to dominate in the postseason allowing an average of 244 total yards in their two games.

The Arizona offense is better than anything the Steelers have faced in the playoffs. Furthermore, if there is a relative weakness in the Steelers defense it is with their corners who will have their hands full with Boldin and Fitzgerald. This advantage should allow Arizona to have a few sustainable drives. However, there is little doubt that the Steelers will eventually get to the immobile Warner. Don't be surprised to see him on the sidelines with some smelling salts before this is over.

THE SMALL MATCHUP: Pittsburgh Steelers Offense v. Arizona Cardinals Defense

The Steelers are a mediocre ball control offense who will not likely impress anyone with their statistics. They grind out games with power running and timely 3rd down conversions by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Nonetheless Roethlisberger is an effective manager of the game and Willie Parker provides just enough running consistency to keep the ball moving against defenses.

In the postseason, the Cardinals were an impressive +9 in turnover margin. This was the core of their success. Despite the accepted "resurgence" of the defense, statistically they gave up nearly as many yards as their offense gained over those 3 games.

The Cardinals are a solid defense group but nowhere near the caliber of the Steelers defense. Furthermore, the Steeler offense has faced a number of significantly better defenses (including the Ravens 3 times) and their game is not likely to be disrupted in any way. One can expect a balanced and effective attack in this game which was monopolize the clock and wear down the Cardinals defense.


The Cardinals may be a "hot" team right now, but I question the meaning of all of that. Despite their win at Carolina in the playoffs, I am convinced they are not that good away from home (unlike last year's Giants team). This season they finished 3-5 away from Arizona and were fortunate as hell to have 2 home playoff games. The Steeler faithful will likely significantly outnumber the fans who trecked from Arizona in Tampa. This will start to feel like a road game by the second half for sure.


Pittsburgh Steelers 34 Arizona Cardinals 17

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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