Steelers-Cards: Good Day for a Reunion

The Steelers and Cardinals get together for the first time since Super Bowl XLIII, and the old boys have plenty of catching up to do.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hold "Family Day" at training camp, so why not hold one during the regular season?

Today's game at Arizona reeks of such a day for the Steelers, who'll play a 1-4 Cardinals team that boasts of the Steelers' former offensive coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt), offensive line coach (Russ Grimm), secondary coach (Ray Horton), special teams coach (Kevin Spencer), two outside linebackers (Joey Porter, Clark Haggans) and, in case anyone needed a memento of the event, video man (Rob Brakel).

The Cardinals also hired former cornerback Deshea Townsend as an assistant coach, a former PR intern as their receivers coach (Mike Miller), and a former offensive assistant as their linebackers coach (Matt Raich).

The Cardinals also picked up defensive lineman Nick Eason as a locker room good guy, and they drafted Larry Fitzgerald and LaRod Stephens-Howling out of Pitt and Levi Brown out of Penn State.

The Cardinals even have a Wolfley – Ron Wolfley – as a color analyst to match his brother Craig Wolfley of the Steelers Radio Network.

All of the above illustrates Arizona's label of "Pittsburgh West," but there'll be a couple additional reasons why today's game will mark "Family Day."

The Cardinals' first-round draft pick, Patrick Peterson, is the "little brother" of Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden, and Cardinals rookie David Carter will be playing against his brother, Steelers rookie Chris Carter, for the first time in the NFL.

Bidwells and Rooneys have shared a rich NFL history together that peaked in Super Bowl XLIII, when the Steelers rallied to nip the Cardinals in one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time.

So, really, "Family Day" will have an underlying vibe of revenge for the Cardinals, who are coming off a bye and in need of a win to save their season.

"This is more about what we need to do as a team," said Whisenhunt, the Cardinals' head coach. "We lost a number of games where we had opportunities to win. We didn't make the plays. So our focus has to be about cleaning those things up and making sure we have the opportunity to be successful going forward."

The Steelers, of course, have since been back to a Super Bowl, but the Cardinals followed up their Super Bowl appearance with a steady decline. They were NFC Division Round playoff losers in 2009, 5-11 in 2010, and 1-4 so far this season.

Much of the decline had to do with the retirement of quarterback Kurt Warner following the 2009 season. Additionally, the Cardinals only have 11 players left from their 2008 roster, and of those 11 only six started in that Super Bowl game.

The Steelers still have 15 starters from that Super Bowl, and two more, Willie Colon and Aaron Smith, are on injured reserve.

Is that Super Bowl too far in the rearview mirror to help the coaches?

"You go back and look at some of the things that you did that may have worked," Whisenhunt said. "Obviously if we get down to the one-yard line we are going to make sure we don't throw it to James Harrison. So hopefully we learn from that."

The Cardinals' biggest weakness is quarterback. They used four last year in place of the departed Warner before trading for Kevin Kolb last offseason. But Kolb has thrown six interceptions to only five touchdown passes and has a passer rating of 77.2.

The Cardinals can run the ball, though, and that's been a problem for a Steelers defense that will be without nose tackle Casey Hampton and outside linebacker Harrison. Even backup nose tackle Chris Hoke is doubtful for the game, providing much hope for Arizona running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and his 4.8-yard-per-carry average.

The Cardinals' defense, coordinated by Horton, also has had trouble learning the nuances of Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme. Off a bye week, improvement in that area is expected.

"They can hone up some things," said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "They missed all that time putting the defense in. I'm sure there've been some added blitzes that Ray knows we've struggled with in the past. You'd rather not go against somebody that knows you that well, but we've got to play."

"It's always fun to go against guys you know," said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "But it's only fun when you win."


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