Tag Archives: Cardinals

State of the Team: Steelers 1/27/09

  • Congrats on reaching the top of your profession.  Now, embarrass yourself for a bunch of cameras.

There are a lot of theories out there on what will happen on Sunday.  Too many to link to, so I’ll just list some stories here that have been repeated a lot and give my take.

Coach Whisenhunt knows the offense: Ed Bouchette of the Post Gazette has this one pretty well nailed.  Coach Whis knows the gist of the Steeler blitzing schemes.  So does every other coach that looks at tape of previous Steeler games.  The real benefit here is that Whisenhunt knows the offensive players psyche’s better than anyone.  But the impact from that is minimal at best.

Wow.  The Cardinal receiving corps is good: Well, there’s some merit to this one, but I think this is akin to saying that Einstein was smart.  Everyone recognizes this as a major matchup, but no one know really how it will play out.  I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that the Steelers just need to get pressure on Kurt Warner.  Easier said than done.  But I think the Cardinal receivers are best downfield.  Making them go to quick timing routes would get them out of their comfort zone and be a good offshoot of blitzing even if we don’t get to Warner.

Will Hines play/be effective?: It’s obvious he wants to play.  I think with the entire off season to rest, I’d expect him to play.  Remember Terrell Owens a few years ago in the Super Bowl playing with a sprained ankle and fractured fibula?  As long as he can stand and he won’t do permanent damage, he’ll be out there.  As for being effective?  We’ll see.  TO had 9 catches for 122 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX (Wikipedia).  Hines is better and tougher than TO, right?

Arizona is a bunch of newbies to the Super Bowl.  The Steelers are experienced: I don’t buy this one as an advantage at all.  Just look at Super Bowl XXXVI (New kids on the block Patriots beat experienced Rams.  Start dynasty).  Or Super Bowl XLII (Inexperienced New York Giants beat said Patriots.  Hopefully end dynasty).

Overall, my impression of this game is that it will be one of tempo.  If it turns into a track meet, I don’t think anyone will favor Pittsburgh.  I think the Steelers will try to make sustained drives and just keep that dangerous Arizona offense on the sidelines.  I think the Cardinals will use their run game to open up the passing game and get a lot of big plays.  Just like a college basketball game, the slower tempo usually will win out.  However, the team that prefers the slower tempo doesn’t always win.  One of the beautiful things about football is that points are the result of sustained drives that require a lot of effort, but they can be gained through gambles in a pinch.  So one team can dominate a game, but if they don’t go up by 3 or 4 scores, the game isn’t over.  The Cardinals are very capable of cashing in on some of those gambles.

I see the Steelers blitzing as usual, and forcing some short passes over the middle.  It’s up to the secondary to turn those into incompletions.  I think our offense should be able to put up a few touchdowns on the Cardinals.  Although they have improved over the course of the playoffs, the Arizona defense is still one of the weaker defense we will have seen in the post season.  It’ll be an entertaining game at the very least.

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State of the Team: Steelers 1/19/09

  • We’re going to the Super Bowl.  ‘Nuff said.
  • msnbc.com says the two teams are total contrasts.
  • ESPN says the Steelers must nurse their bruises from the Baltimore game before heading to Tampa.
  • Anquan Boldin is apparently a jerk.  At least to people who don’t know him on a personal level.

I could keep linking things because there’s a lot out there, but I’ll stop for now.  There’s plenty of time in the next two weeks to get to a lot of links.  Believe me: with 2 weeks of airtime to fill, the media will leave no stone unturned.  …and of course I’ll be talking about the Steelers intermittently in the next two weeks with my usual stats nerd slant.

So I’m really intrigued by this Steeler defense vs. Cardinal offense matchup.  Arizona has a ton of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and they’re very balanced (despite the number of times you’ll hear the name Larry Fitzgerald in the coming weeks).  Not only that, they’re probably the hottest unit in the league right now.  It’s scary how much they’re clicking on all cylinders.  So that offense vs. the number 1 defense in the league is juicy.  Throw in the fact that half of Arizona’s coaching staff are former Steeler employees and you’ve got yourself a chess match.  Coach Wiz is very familiar with Dick LeBeau’s blitzing schemes.  So you better believe LeBeau is cooking up some new stuff and I can’t wait to see it.  I don’t think we’ll have a problem with the run.  But at first glance, I don’t like Larry Fitzgerald vs. our corners because of his leaping ability.  He’s 6-3 and our tallest corner is Ike Taylor at 6-2.  That’s a wash, but Larry can jump out of the stadium.  All you have to do is throw the ball up and he uses a terrific combination of speed, leaping ability, timing and hands to come down with it.  If you don’t believe me, ask a Pitt fan.  He single handedly made Rod Rutherford into a decent QB.

On the other side of the ball, I see an opportunity.  I’ve heard a couple (but, I’ll admit not many) talking heads mention Arizona’s surprising defense as a reason for their recent success.  Not true at all.  Philly moved the ball up and down the field this weekend and left some points on the field (they’re still wondering who kidnapped David Akers in Philly), and STILL put up 25 points on them.  That’s not the sign of a good defense to me.  Plus, I didn’t see a good job by the Cardinals of keeping McNabb in the pocket or covering the receivers over the middle.  Those are two things that will play right into the Steelers hands.

So that’s just a quick first impression analysis.  I like the matchup if I’m Pittsburgh.  I think we just need to keep Arizona from out-scoring us (easier said than done, I guess).  But I see some things to worry about (as always).  I did absolutely no research before this, so there are no stats to back up any arguments.  I’ll come back later with some hardcore number crunching for you.

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Weekend Games to Watch 1/16/09

Pitt @ Louisville (6pm Saturday-ESPN)

Pitt’s second big test of the season comes against a very different style of play.  Louisville loves to put pressure on you defensively.  They’ll put on a full court press and really pressure you in the half-court to try to generate a lot of turnovers.  The heat will really be on the guards to make quick decisions and handle the ball well.  The Cardinals do a really good job at denying the post, so every time Blair or Biggs can get a touch down low, it’s a win.  On the other end of the court, Louisville’s offense relies heavily on the transition game.  They’re a very athletic team like South Florida where most of the guys on the court won’t hesitate to put the ball on the floor and take you to the tin.  That could spell trouble for Pitt if they haven’t figured some things out.  I think a big bright spot for Pitt, though, is that Louisville is not really the most physical team in the conference.  I think Pitt can rack up a huge advantage on the glass if they want to.  Overall, keep an eye on turnovers and rebounds.  That will tell you how the game is going.

Player to watch: Levance Fields-Pitt

Teams like this are why Levance isn’t paying for college.  He’s not the most athletic guy on the floor, but no one has a better handle and no one makes better decisions with the ball than Levance.  I think if he does a good job breaking the Cardinal press (and there’s no reason to believe he can’t), Pitt will be in a very good position to win.

Prediction: I’m going with the Panthers but I’m not going to make a score projection because that depends on how many turnovers Louisville can create.  Fields can handle the press.  Can Wannamaker?

Eagles @ Cardinals (3pm Sunday-Fox)

I think the best matchup of the weekend is the Arizona offense vs. the Philly defense.  The Cardinals love to throw the ball around the field, and the Eagles defense loves to blitz.  So it’s going to be on Kurt Warner and the Cardinals offensive line to get time and get the ball out as soon as possible.  I think the Eagles secondary is vulnerable, so if Arizona starts getting off some passes, it could be a long day for the Eagles.  On the other side of the ball, I think the Cardinals defense has been much improved towards the tail end of the season.  However, I think they may be a bit slow to the outsides, which plays right into the hands of a versatile back like Brian Westbrook.

Player to watch: Kurt Warner-Arizona

As I said, he needs to deal well with the pressure that’s going to come, and get the balls out quickly.  If he can get the Eagles to respect the pass, it sets up to be a good game for Arizona.

Prediction: I think this will be the antithesis to the AFC Championship, and filled with scoring.  I’d say both teams in the high 20’s at least.  Probably 30’s.  I think it’s a game of stops, and the Eagles get one or two more.

Ravens @ Steelers (6:30pm Sunday-CBS)

I’ve already covered this extensively in previous posts, but to reiterate: I think it’s a low scoring affair.  That means it’s anyone’s game.  This comes down to one key play or two that could go to anyone.  I think turnovers will have a huge impact on the game.  There’s a lot of talk about Raven injuries, but I think most of them will gut it out, and it won’t have a huge impact on the game.

Player to watch: Willie Parker-Pittsburgh

I think the Steelers need to keep it on the ground, because throwing against this Ravens secondary is dangerous.  Really, it’s on the offensive line, but since I can only pick one player I’ll put it on Parker to need a big game.

Prediction: Way to close to call.  Neither team gets to 20 points.  I think Pittsburgh puts themselves in a bit better situations to get a big play.  Baltimore’s been relying on some big passing plays that may not be there on Sunday.

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