Pittsburgh Run Offense vs. Arizona Run Defense
Lets start with the match-up that is getting the least attention for Super Bowl 43. Willie Parker vs. an Arizona run defense that has impressed so far in the postseason. The Cardinals have yielded 33 less yards per game on the ground then they did in the regular season. They have done a tremendous job stopping big name running backs like Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, and Brian Westbrook. So expect the Cardinals to continue their stout run stuffing postseason defense on Sunday. But on the other hand the Pittsburgh running game can be the factor that puts this game out of reach. If Fast Willie can break a big run or two like his last Super Bowl appearance, he can provide the Steelers with a big edge that can pull this game out of Arizona’s reach.
Pittsburgh Pass Offense vs. Arizona Pass Defense
A vital factor in this match-up is the health and ability to perform of star wide receiver Hines Ward. If he is serviceable and ready to play his game like expected then the Pittsburgh receiving corps will be at full strength, and this is bad news for Arizona. The Cardinals are going to have to focus on the very important aspect of handling Ben Roethlisberger in this match-up with the Steelers passing game. When Arizona puts the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, which they will be able to do against a vulnerable Steelers’ offensive line, they have to make sure they don’t let him escape the pressure to buy time for his wide receivers. When Ben is able to fight off pass rushers and buy time this will lead to Pittsburgh exposing Arizona’s defense of its major weakness, and that’s the big play. Despite how ugly it may look when Big Ben is able to create these huge game changers on busted plays, you cant argue with its effectiveness when it succeeds. On the other hand if the Cardinals can contain Roethlisberger in the pocket this will lead to sacks and forced throws, which will be the key for the Cardinals defense. The Cardinal defense has forced turnovers galore this postseason, as they are a plus nine in turnover differential. This will be the game changer on Sunday as sacks and turnovers from Big Ben have been the decider in most Pittsburgh games. Pittsburgh is 14-4 this season. In the 4 losses Ben has been sacked 21 times and turned it over 14 times, as opposed to the 14 wins where Ben was only sacked a combined 31 times and only threw 5 interceptions. These numbers show you the importance of Big Ben’s action when under pressure.
Arizona Run Offense vs. Pittsburgh Run Defense
Despite the success of Arizona’s running game so far this playoffs, this match up appears to be pretty lopsided, as the Pittsburgh rush defense is as good as they come. Don’t expect much running room for the Arizona running game, but despite the lack of success of the running game Arizona must stay balanced and continue to pound the rock.
Arizona Pass Offense vs. Pittsburgh Pass Defense
This could be considered the most important match-up in Super Bowl 43. This is the battle of the team’s premier strengths. The whole game could hinge on the performance of Arizona’s passing game flow, and the protection of Kurt Warner. If the Pittsburgh blitzes are able to get through and knock Warner to the ground, then Arizona is going to struggle. Warner is going to need his offensive line to play like they have all playoffs excluding the two drives in which they fell apart vs. Philadelphia. If Pittsburgh isn’t able to get to Warner quick we should see more Arizona success through the air with Kurt’s effective quick release. This battle is most likely to decide the winner and it will be easily recognizable. Plain and simple if Warner’s getting hit, Pittsburgh is going to win, and if Kurt is comfortable and getting time to throw, then Arizona will be lighting up the scoreboard.
This game will most likely not be decided in the special teams department, as the production by both teams special teams gangs this season will likely lead to a wash. The return game brings to different elements to the game. Neither team has done much this year in kickoff returns, but on punt returns the two teams will put out playmaker potential with Santonio Holmes and Steve Breaston. Santonio has already run back a punt for a touchdown in the postseason vs. the Chargers and he has the ability to make something happen every time he gets into space because of his explosive speed. Breaston on the other hand has the potential but hasn’t been able to find success through the return game. Both teams also have successful kicking games with solid consistent kickers with Neil Rackers and Jeff Reed. The punters are also basically a wash as neither are anything special; the only mentionable in that match-up is the recent struggles of Pittsburgh punter Mitch Berger.
Lets get right to the major storyline in the coaching match-up in Super Bowl 43. Arizona’s head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, is the former Pittsburgh Offensive Coordinator for the Steelers a couple years back when they won the Super Bowl. This could be a huge factor in this game. Last time we saw such an occurrence, Jon Gruden was able to completely expose his former team and their QB vs. the Oakland Raiders and Rich Gannon in Super Bowl 37. Does Coach Whisenhunt have the game plan and strategies in place to expose Big Ben? Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley needs to continue his perfect play calling. The balance, Larry Fitzgerald usage, and the perfect timing of a trick play here and there have been a huge part of Arizona’s playoff run.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is in his second year running the Pittsburgh ship and he has done a nice job continuing the franchises success after the Bill Cowher departure, as he has Pittsburgh back in the Super Bowl. Dick LeBeau the Pittsburgh defensive coordinator is the key coach for the Pittsburgh side though, as he must configure a plot of how to get to Warner and disrupt the flow of Arizona’s passing game. Well-respected Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson seemed to have more trouble then expected developing a scheme to pressure Kurt, as the Cardinals offensive line had very few lapses.