The Pittsburgh Steelers have a tall task ahead of them when the Arizona Cardinals come to town this Sunday in Week 6 NFL action, and a rematch of one of the most exciting Super Bowls in NFL history, Super Bowl 43. A lot has changed since the 2009 Super Bowl, but one fact remains the same, and that is the deep roots which stem from Pittsburgh to Arizona.
I was able to have some time with Jess Root, editor of Revenge of the Birds (SB Nation's Cardinals website), to talk about the upcoming game from their perspective. Take a look at what he thinks of the Steelers being able to stop the Cardinals' offense and his prediction.
The Arizona Cardinals have long been dubbed "Pittsburgh West" for all the ties and players who have played in the Steel City on your roster. What is the biggest connection you can draw between the Cardinals and the Steelers from an organizational standpoint?
Well, first and foremost, the Cardinals have had a former Steelers OC as their head coach since 2007. Ken Whisenhunt brought in guys who had been part of the Steelers he knew and now Bruce Arians is doing the same. To be quite honest, if you want to get players, you have to look at the Steelers organization because of the success of the franchise. Now, teams get burned by this, as the Steelers tend to let guys go when they aren't as productive, but even when you don't get huge production, they frequently are the type of player you want in the locker room.
Larry Foote is a coach, as is Brentson Buckner. The Cards also have LaMarr Woodley. Arians was fired...or "refired."
I think that's it. Every coach brings in guys he has worked with. Arizona has had former Steelers guys. The Cardinals are now a mix of former Steelers and former Colts.
The Cardinals are lighting up the scoreboard and playing a stifling style of defense. A very difficult game for a team who will be without Ben Roethlisberger for another week. How do you stop the Cardinals, or is that nothing more than a pipe dream?
Well, based on what we have seen this season, the only way to really "stop" the Cardinals is to take the ball away. Even in the loss to the Rams, they amassed over 450 yards of offense. They run the ball well and Carson Palmer is playing as well as he ever has. If Pittsburgh wants to slow it down, get Palmer off his spot and take the ball away. So far, that has been the only thing that works.
Carson Palmer has had a resurgence in Arizona with Bruce Arians at the helm, but has been injured the past few years, ending his season prematurely. What are the Cardinals doing different in 2015 to try and keep their starting QB healthy for all 16 regular season games?
Well, it starts with his health. He is healthy. Then they invested in the offensive line. They have a very good stable of running backs and are running the ball very well. He is in his third year in the system. Larry Fitzgerald is healthy. John Brown is fast. It all adds up to the best offensive production any Arians-coached team has had.
Really, I think it was the offseason focus to become a truly balanced offense. The focus was to run the ball more and better. That takes the pressure off Palmer to have to throw 40-50 times every game and keeps defenses on their toes.
LaMarr Woodley was a dominant force for the Steelers for a long time. This was until he became rather lazy and out of shape (which resulted in nagging injuries) in his final year with the team. After a cup of coffee in Oakland, how has Mr. Woodley been doing in a Cardinals' uniform?
He's a guy. He is a perfect fit in the locker room and he is solid. He is not super productive statistically, but he does push the pocket and can hold his own in run support. He really only plays in base packages and will probably be overtaken at some point this season by rookie Markus Golden, but he is a good fit.
The Cardinals stayed at the Greenbrier Report in White Sulfur Springs, WV after their most recent game in Detroit, a wise decision to avoid the constant trek across the country. Will this theory pay dividends for the team, and how do you see the game playing out (prediction please).
The Cardinals have done this before. It has been successful and not successful in the past. This time around, it was smart because of the numbers of nicked up players. This team is all business. They are focused and talented. That said, if Michael Vick plays as he is expected to this weekend, this is a game the Cardinals should win if they are to be believed as a Super Bowl contender. With Big Ben, this is a tossup. But with Vick, the likelihood for turnovers goes up and, combined with a potent offense, I see another win. I think this goes 27-16 Cardinals.
For the best coverage on the Cardinals leading up to the game, be sure to check out Revenge of the Birds.