1) Coach Mike Tomlin, contrary to published reports, was actually named Pittsburgh head coach AFTER Ken Whisenhunt already decided to leave Pittsburgh for Arizona.
2) Also, just to be clear, Mike Tomlin came over from Tampa where he was secondary coach, and then was the Vikings defensive coordinator for only one season.
What do these facts mean?
Answer: My initial plans to tout Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Tomlin as sitcom brothers who are competitive with each other does not really work... I was going to say Mike Tomlin was Gary Coleman and Ken Whisenhunt was his older brother Willis from Diff'rent Strokes, who had something to prove (i.e. that he's not addicted to drugs or the Whizzantor, and that he can win a Super Bowl).
Instead, this Super Bowl is more like the situation where Ken Whisenhunt thinks he's going to inherit a fortune and instead, upon realizing it's not going to happen, ends up going elsewhere to pursue his dreams and get his Super Bowl championship.
We all know Pittsburgh has a great defense, and Arizona has a great offense. The question on my mind is what was the closest game to this for each team?
Pittsburgh played the Houston Texans the first week of the season and the Texans didn't score until the 4th quarter in a 38-17 drubbing. The Steelers played the Colts high-flying offense in Week 9 and lost 24-20 while giving up 240 passing yards, 3 TDs and a 95.8 QB rating, but Roethlisberger also had 3 INTs. The Steelers played the Chargers in week 10 at home, but the weather was awful, so it's not a relevant game. The Steelers beat up on the Patriots in Week 13, but the weather wasn't great either, but the 33-10 victory w/ 5 turnovers is still impressive. The Steelers beat up the Chargers in the divisional round of the playoffs, forcing 2 turnovers, getting a punt return TD, to beat the Chargers 35-24, though Rivers had a 105.4 QB rating.
Conclusion: 2 smackdowns (Texans, Patriots); 2 games where the Steelers were susceptible to the passing attack (Colts, Chargers)
Arizona played the Eagles 3rd ranked pass defense twice, Dallas' 5th ranked pass defense, and the Patriots 8th overall defense.
The Cards got destroyed by the Eagles in the regular season, as Warner had a 65.7 passer rating and threw 3 INTs. The Cards beat the Cowboys, as Warner had a 104.3 rating w/ 2TDs and 1 INT. The Cards played the Pats in a blizzard where I don't think the game was indicative of anything. Of course, Warner played much better against the Eagles in the playoffs, posting an absurd 4 TDs and a 145.7 rating.
Conclusion: 1 weather-related bad game (Patriots), 1 awful game (Eagles - reg season), and 2 superb games (Cowboys, NFC Championship game).
There is Hope for the Cardinals
This analysis gives me hope. One other thing gives me hope: the 2007 regular season meeting of Pittsburgh at Arizona!
The Cardinals used two different QBs in the game due to injury, but both were effective. Larry Fitzgerald had 11 catches for 123 yards, and that was when Anquan Boldin was injured and not even playing and the Cardinals also have Steve Breaston whom they can rely on now as a WR (though Breaston had a punt return TD in the game). The Cards also held Willie Parker to 37 yards on 18 carries. Hines Ward also was injured and did not play in the game though.
Miscellaneous known fact:
Only 6 NFL teams have ever had THREE 1,000 yard receivers on the same team.
2008 Arizona Cardinals (Fitzgerald, Boldin, Breaston)
2004 Indianapolis Colts
1995 Atlanta Falcons (Metcalf, Emanuel, Mathis)
1989 Washington Redskins
1981 San Diego Chargers (Joiner, Chandler, Winslow) *but Chandler played for the Saints also
1980 San Diego Chargers (Jefferson, Winslow, Joiner)
So, with all of the analysis in front of us, it seems that there is hope for the Cardinals to get some offense against the top defense in the league. The bigger question will be what kind of adjustments are made from that 2007 game? Also, will Kurt Warner be able to avoid any INTs and put up enough points? I will be rooting for the Cardinals, but in the end, I can't bring myself to also predict them as victors, though I'm expecting a closer battle than many are forecasting. So... final prediction: Nobody beats the Whizz... except on Super Bowl Sunday!
Pick: Pittsburgh 24, Arizona 21
Last week: 2-0 (Hooray! It took me all season, but I did something right finally!)
Playoffs: 4-6 (Still pretty shitty.)
Out of curiosity, here's how I've done in past years in the playoffs:
2004 - 7-4 (correctly picked Pats over Eagles)
2005 - 8-3 (correctly picked Steelers over Seahawks)
2006 - 5-6 (correctly picked Colts over Bears)
2007 - 6-5 (did not foresee the Giants winning)