So, we’ve known since Sunday night that it will be the Steelers and Cardinals facing each other in Super Bowl XLIII. For the last few days, all I’ve heard, read and saw was that the Cardinals don’t deserve to be there. That any NFC West team is undeserving. That the Cardinals can’t possibly give the Steelers a run for their money. Heck, even Vegas doesn’t give Arizona a chance. They’ve got the Cards as a seven point underdog.
The more I read, watch and listen, the more I can’t wait for this game to actually be played (I hate the two week wait between the conference championship games and Super Bowl). I’m not going to make a prediction now – I’ll do that next week. But I am going to tell you why I am looking forward to this matchup.
* The Steelers play the game the right way. Pittsburgh’s defense is the best in the league. They stop the run. They force turnovers. They hit hard. On offense, Willie Parker is one of the better running backs in the league, and Ben Roethlisberger is becoming one of the best leaders at the quarterback position.
The Steelers also don’t do any trash talking. There are no me-first guys in that locker room. And, you have to love the job that Mike Tomlin has done in the two years he’s been there. Tomlin went from being an unknown (just like the guy he replaced in Bill Cowher) to being a coach almost every NFL fan would want for their team.
* The revenge factor: When Cowher retired two years ago, it was assumed that then Offensive Co-ordinator Ken Whisenhunt would take over. But we now know what happens when you make assumptions. Tomlin got an interview, and wowed Steelers management. The next thing we knew, Tomlin was the new coach in Pittsburgh and Whisenhunt was taking over the Cardinals. Whisenhunt has spoken many times about the disappointment he felt in not getting the Steelers job. If there’s any Cardinal that wants to win on February first, he’d be hard pressed to want it more than his head coach.
* Kurt Warner: It will be ten years in September since the NFL world was introduced to then Rams quarterback Kurt Warner. The stories about his playing in the Arena league, being an afterthought with the Packers, spending time working as a grocery bagger were told over and over again. America ate it up, and it didn’t get old because Warner was putting up video game type stats.
Then Warner got hurt and was replaced in St. Louis by Marc Bulger. The Giants picked him up to be Eli Manning’s mentor. He didn’t last a season in New York, and by the time Arizona got him in 2005 most everyone assumed Warner was done.
Warner sat and bided his time. Matt Leinart flamed out fairly quickly, and when Warner was given the chance to start again, he took advantage. He went from being on the scrap heap to being talked about as a possible Hall of Famer.
Warner’s a guy that is easy to like. He goes out, does his job and goes home. He isn’t a diva (though his wife might be). He doesn’t get into trouble off the field. He’s a guy you want good things to happen to. I’m glad he’s back on the NFL’s biggest stage.
* These two franchises are so different: Pittsburgh has multiple Super Bowl Championships. The Cardinals have never played for the Lombardi Trophy. The Rooneys are regarded as some of the best owners in the National Football League. The Bidwills used to be (okay, still are) looked at as village idiots. The Steelers have had three coaches in my 37 years on this Earth. The Cardinals have had a lot more. Why, since moving to Arizona in 1988 the Cards went through Joe Bugel, Gene Stallings, Hank Kuhlmann, VInce Tobin, Buddy Ryan, Dave McGinnis, and Dennis Green before getting it right with Whisenhunt.
Basically, this is a battle between one of the league’s most stable franchises and one of its least stable franchises. They stay that styles make prizefights. One of the other things that makes a fight good is how different the two combatants are. You couldn’t have two more different teams than Pittsburgh and Arizona.
* Super Bowl XLII: Let’s rewind one year ago. The Giants and Patriots were getting ready to face off and you couldn’t find anyone who was ready, willing, or able to pick the Giants to be the then undefeated Patriots. Super Bowl XLII was supposed to be a coronation for the greatest team ever. Tom Brady and Randy Moss broke all kinds of records, and the Super Bowl was supposed to be the icing on the cake. The Giants had already lost to the Patriots, so how could they possibly hope to beat them in a rematch?
But, that’s why they played the game, right? The last time I checked they play the game on grass (or artificial turf), not on paper. We all know what went down one year ago. From David Tyree’s miraculous catch to Manning’s late touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress that helped the Giants stun the Patriots and shock the world.
After watching last year’s Super Bowl in Glendale, AZ, why would anyone want to count the Cardinals out more than a week before they actually kick off at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL?
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not going to write the Cardinals off just yet. Heck, every time I picked against them (pretty much every week in the playoffs in case you were wondering) they proved me wrong. They weren’t supposed to beat the Falcons. They weren’t supposed to be competitive at Carolina. And wasn’t the Philly defense ging to blitz them into oblivion?
Things in the NFL don’t always go according to plan. This game is going to be a lot closer than some of the ‘experts’ think.
And that’s why I can’t wait for Super Sunday to get here.