Game Day Matchups

Neal Coolong breaks down the key matchups in today's Steelers-Cardinals game.

CB Ike Taylor vs. WR Larry Fitzgerald

It was one of the prime match-ups of Super Bowl XLIII, and it did not disappoint. Taylor, who's off to arguably the best start of his career this season, held Fitzgerald in check until the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Fitzgerald, who's 30 catches, 546 yards and seven touchdowns are all NFL post-season records, exploded for a 64-yard run-and-catch touchdown, nearly sending the Cardinals to an upset victory.

It's nearly impossible to bottle up Fitzgerald, but his 15.8 yards per catch is potentially devastating. With the Cardinals coming out of a bye, look for them to challenge the Steelers' league-best pass defense by moving Fitzgerald around as much as possible, and getting him the ball both down the field and close to the line of scrimmage.

ILB James Farrior vs. TE Todd Heap

It's yet another match-up between the two over the last decade when Heap was in Baltimore. Farrior's coverage skills do not appear to be at the high level they once were, and he'll be challenged by the soft-handed Heap down the seam.

Heap hasn't had a ton of success so far in Arizona (13 catches for 150 yards, no touchdowns), but he does have three catches of 20 or more yards. The Steelers have been gashed by the tight ends down the seam in recent games, and it's likely the Cardinals will try to exploit Farrior over that portion of the field.

OLB Lawrence Timmons vs. LT Levi Brown

Plain and simple, Timmons is playing out of position. In two games filling in for James Harrison at the right outside linebacker position, Timmons has three tackles, and none came in Week 6 vs. Jacksonville. He's brought little, if any, pressure on the quarterback, and if Timmons is going to stay on the outside, he can count on a steady dose of the burly Beanie Wells running right at him.

Brown has also struggled this season, primarily in pass protection. He's allowed 19 pressures in the Cardinals five games this season, and is a strong contributor to why QB Kevin Kolb is fifth in the league with 16 sacks taken. Arizona will likely try to exploit the significant size advantage Brown has over Timmons and focus their running game over him.

WR Mike Wallace vs. CB Patrick Peterson

Despite QB Ben Roethlisberger's 8-for-24 passing over 20 yards, Wallace is still racking up stats. He's tied for 6th among receivers with 33 catches, 3rd in yards (612) and 3rd in 20+ yard catches. He had a few opportunities for big plays against Jacksonville, but swirling winds prevented them. He has a favorable match-up this week, despite Arizona defensive coordinator (former Steelers secondary coach) Ray Horton's familiarity with him.

Peterson is having a fairly typical year for a rookie cornerback. He's more solid in zone than in man, but he and the rest of the Cardinals secondary have given up 26 plays of 20 yards or more, 3rd highest in the NFL. Roethlisberger and Wallace will look to attack the deep secondary when Peterson is showing man coverage.


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