Opponent Spotlight: QB Kurt Warner

I know, pretty creative, right?

This won't really be a creative game. But the Cardinals ability to pull off the upset will hinge on Warner's ability to recognize what's coming at him. And rest assured, it's going to come in waves.

Warner was able to crush the Eagles defense throughout the first half of their NFC Championship game win based on his ability to keep his head and feet in focus, and simply hit the open receiver. A large part of what made his first option read was based off the fact Eagles coordinator Jim Johnson kept bringing pressure from the edges.

There was a big throw to WR Anquan Boldin down the right side, just above the flats. There was a quick in-route to Man 'o War-like WR Larry Fitzgerald, who was the hot receiver on an overload blitz.

Guess what Warner is thinking? The Steelers blitz off the edge better than just about anyone, let's make sure our slot receivers know to recognize this.

He'll then need to remember the concept of the zone blitz.

The Steelers won't be able to pound away off the edge the way they have in previous games. Warner has too many weapons and is too accurate to make all-world OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley pin their ears back and go after him.

The Steelers can, however, bring one from the outside shade of the tackle, or stunt them inside, and drop the other into a short zone. The key to stopping Warner and the three-headed monster of Boldin, Man 'o War and Steve Breaston is going to come up the middle.

Cardinals C Lyle Sendlein is going to have a tough time with NT Casey Hampton. Sendlein is giving up at least 30 pounds to Hampton, and Hampton's job is going to be to push him and force a guard over to help. Look for the Steelers' inside linebackers to attack through the B gap, but there will be another linebacker dropping over the short middle zone in true zone blitz fashion. This could also be filled by SS Troy Polamalu, who will show blitz to create even more confusion for the Cardinals offense.

Warner is obviously savvy, or he wouldn't have gotten to three Super Bowls with two different teams. He'll have to be patient, and perhaps take a few shots in the process, but if he forces throws to the spot vacated by the defenders blitzing off the snap, he's going to throw right into the defense's plan.

To his advantage, though, CBs Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden will have to defend the inside route even more than usual, and watch out for the double-move (and the inevitable defensive holding penalty). With Fitzgerald's sheer size and Boldin's all-around ability, expect the Cardinals to look for the deep ball to try to keep Polamalu out of the box, and to keep FS Ryan Clark from shading to one side or the other.

Warner holds the key to beating one of the best defenses the NFL has seen in a while. It's critical he makes the correct pre-snap read, and his receivers must understand which routes they'll have to break off based on what the defense is showing. One or two mis-reads by any of them will result in them becoming defenders, needing to tackle in the open field.

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