On February 1, college students across America will pack themselves into small dorm rooms to celebrate our unofficial national holiday: The Super Bowl. This years game is a classic match up of opposites with the 5-time Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and their vaunted defense matching up with notoriously awful Arizona Cardinals and their high-octane offense.
The Steelers and Cardinals took alternate routes but have made it to the same destination. The Steelers finished the regular season 12-4, despite suffering injuries to various players, and were considered by many to be the best team in the NFL. The Cardinals on the other hand, finished 9-7 in the worst division in the NFL, the NFC West, and were widely considered a team blessed by a weak schedule. They played on Wild Card Weekend versus the Atlanta Falcons, whereas the Steelers earned a bye weak. Both teams had emphatic wins in round two, and gutted out victories in the conference championship games.
What makes this game so interesting is the fact that both team has a dominant strength. The Steelers defense ranked first in almost every defensive statistic throughout the course of the season and haven't allowed more then 17 points in the past six games. They feature defensive player of the year, James Harrison, and pro-bowlers Troy Polamalu and James Farrior. This hard hitting bunch led by coordinator Dick LeBeau is a unit for the ages. On the other side of the ball is the Kurt Warner led Cardinal offense. Warner has regained his magic touch from his St. Louis Rams days and has established himself as an all-time great quarterback. Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald has proven to be one of the, if not the top play-maker in the NFL. His 419 post-season yards is a record, surpassing the great Jerry Rice. On the opposite side of Fitzgerald, Warner has prow-bowl wideout Anquan Boldin who's injured hamstring will benefit from the week off. Running backs Edgerin James and Tim Hightower have been productive in the playoffs but don't expect to see much of them against the Steelers D.
The Cardinals defense is going to have to put together a complete team effort to stop quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers offense. The young Cardinals secondary including Dominique Rodgers-Cromrartie, Antrelle Rolle, and Adrian Wilson is good enough to limit the Steelers passing game. The x-factor in the game is Steeler tailback Willie Parker. He has an injury plagued season but if he is able to get outside into open space then it can be a long night for Cardinals fans.
So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object? I am going with the cinderella Cardinals. The combination of Warner and Fitzgerald is going to account for at least two scores, and I see Warner letting an opportunity to win a second super-bowl slip out of his hands. The logical pick is the Steelers, but there is something special about this Cardinals team. To borrow a phrase commonly used for college basketball, the slipper fits.