Once upon a time there was a team that made a Super Bowl after decades of losing. This team had gone 40 years and never finished in first place, and when it finally won a playoff game it was on a crazy fluke play that got them to a Conference Championship which they lost. Two years later they were in the Super Bowl, and the rest as they say is history. That team of course was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who before the merger were without doubt the most worthless franchise in the old NFL. They only had one playoff appearance and that was in 1947 when they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a tiebreaker playoff for the Eastern Division. That ironically was the magical year for the Chicago Cardinals when they won the NFL Championship the one moment of glory the franchise had before this season. Of course that was before the magical decade of the 70’s when the Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years. That should erase any notion that the Cardinals can’t win the game, because any loser can become a winner some day, and as we see now the Steelers are one of the jewels of the NFL.
These two teams also have another connection in 1944, when they combined rosters to stay in the NFL which had been seriously affected by player shortages due to World War II. Known as Card-Pitt, they played more like a Carpet as they lost all ten games, and may have been the worst team in the history of the NFL. Even worse then the 1976 Buccaneers and 2008 Lions.
They also share a common bond in their coaching staffs, as Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt served as Steelers Offensive Coordinator when the Steelers last went to the big game three years ago. Assistant Russ Grimm was also a member of the Steelers staff in Super Bowl XL and went to Arizona with Whisenhunt. Last year Whisenhunt and Grimm got the best of Mike Tomlin and the Steelers, winning in Arizona 21-14. Of course for an up and coming Cardinal team that game was a big test to becoming a better team, while it was the first loss of the season of a solid Steelers team that won its division. The Steelers having two full weeks to prepare for the Cardinals, and will be on guard not to let that happen again.
One reason why it won’t happen again as that the Steelers defense is better this year then they were last year, and while the Cardinals offense is better, they have had some slip ups this year hence their mediocre 9-7 record. Ironically the last team to go 9-7 and make the Super Bowl was the Los Angeles Rams in 1979 who gave that great Steelers team all they could handle before fading in the fourth quarter, as the Steelers scored 14 unanswered points and even covered the point spread, although the game was tight through out. I can see the same thing happening this week in the Super Bowl, as the Steelers always seem to play tight games, and sometimes need a late defensive score to cover a higher spread, that is what happened against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Why it will be a close game centers on the abilities of Larry Fitzgerald who can knife through the Steelers defense, and has the potential to win the game on his own. However, the Steelers blitzing offense should make it harder then the game he had against the Eagles, as the Cardinals lack the running game that could keep the Steelers defense off balance. The Cardinals defense is also playing well in the playoffs, but with QB Ben Roethlisberger determined to play better then he did in Super Bowl XL, it will be hard to imagine the Steelers making allot of mistakes. However, one player who when pressured can be prone to turnovers is Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, and that is where the game will be decided, As Super Bowls often are decided by the team that turns the ball over least. This one will be no different and the player who will make the big plays will be Steelers Safety Troy Polamalu. Look for him to get at least two interceptions including the one that will turn a close game into a Steelers cover, as down four late Warner will be in a hurry trying to get the Cards in position for a game winning drive, only to see number 43 win Super Bowl XLIII with an interception return to give the Steelers the cover and win himself the Super Bowl MVP, as ultimately he will be the one who will the key at stopping the Cardinals vertical passing game, which will be a very important key to victory for the Steelers, as the Cardinals running game won’t be able to win the Super Bowl. While the 24-13 score may be disappointing for the Cardinals, they will not be embarrassed as the Steelers get one for the other hand.