Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger seems to be endlessly fighting injuries but always finds his way onto the playing field. During the Steelers' run to the 2005 Super Bowl title, Roethlisberger leaned on a tremendous running game but struggled once the team reached the Super Bowl. In his first three playoff games of ‘05, Roethlisberger tossed seven touchdowns and had a QB rating of over 124.0 in two of those outings. However on Super Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, Roethlisberger completed just 9-of-21 passes for 123 yards and was intercepted twice. A similar performance in Tampa could spell disaster for Pittsburgh.
Advantage: Arizona. Given Big Ben's struggles in Super Bowl XL and Warner's supporting cast, the Cardinals' signal caller holds a slight edge.
The Cardinals' running game has experienced a major resurgence of late but is still somewhat of a question mark. The Steelers come in with the NFL's top ranked defense and is allowing only 80 yards per game on the ground. RB Edgerrin James has come alive since rejoining the starting lineup, racking up 203 yards on 52 carries in three playoff games. During the regular season, Arizona managed a mere 74 yards per outing. In addition, rookie RB Tim Hightower has moved back into his role coming off the bench. Hightower failed to rush for more than 35 yards in the final eight weeks of the year but has teamed up with James to supply the Cardinals with a formidable backfield.
Advantage: Pittsburgh. Parker is back healthy and the Cardinals' regular season woes could resurface against a stout Pittsburgh run defense.
Although the Steelers' receiving corps is no slouch, this is an area where the Cardinals excel. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin make up arguably the best wide receiving tandem in the NFL. Furthermore, Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban are both capable players. Fitzgerald has already complied a playoff record 419 yards receiving while finding the end zone five times. Boldin has plenty to prove after fielding countless questions regarding his sideline blowup with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Arizona hasn't received much production at tight end but Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick could be wild-cards given the attention Pittsburgh will devote to the Cardinals' receivers.
Advantage: Arizona. The Cardinals are nearly untouchable in this department.
One area of concern all season long in the Steel City has been pass protection. Pittsburgh's offensive line allowed 49 sacks during the regular season and could find the going tough against an aggressive Cardinals defense. Roethlisberger has taken several shots and even suffered a concussion against a lackluster Cleveland Browns defense in Week 17. Given the way Arizona has been getting after the passer and forcing turnovers, this should be a major area a concern for the Steelers faithful. If the Cardinals are able to pressure Roethlisberger and force him into bad decisions, Arizona's chances of pulling the upset will rise substantially.
Advantage: Arizona. With the Cardinals' improved performance and Pittsburgh's inability to keep Roethlisberger off his back, Arizona gets the nod.
Click here for part two of Brad Wilbricht's Super Bowl XLIII breakdown, which analyzes the defensive side of the ball.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org