With just days away from Super Bowl XLIII, the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers are in full…
Super Bowl: Matchups to Watch
The Cardinals need to be able to run the ball competently to try and keep the Steelers honest. It's possible they could spread the field with receivers, testing the Steelers' secondary depth. Against pressure defense, the Cardinals have at times gone to a no-huddle to keep the other team out of its sub packages. QB Kurt Warner is excellent at that, so it's an option.
Defensively, the Cardinals should be able to hold their own against the Steelers offensive line. The defensive line has played well in the playoffs, and the linebackers have done a nice job of filling gaps against the run. The real challenge will be not only putting pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but also keeping him from scrambling and making big plays after the original play has broken down.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Steelers secondary:
Fitzgerald has been a devastating force in the postseason, setting an NFL record with 419 receiving yards. He always has had great hands and the ability to out-leap opponents. This year, he has become a more refined route runner and he has improved his ability to run after the catch. The Steelers will be physical with Fitzgerald and likely keep a safety over the top as much as possible.
Steelers OLB James Harrison vs. Cardinals LT Mike Gandy:
Harrison has become one of the NFL's best defensive players in just his second season as a starter. He has 16 sacks during the regular season and will be a challenge for Gandy and the other offensive linemen. Gandy often faces the other team's best pass rusher and he usually gets little help from running backs and tight ends.
Steelers NT Casey Hampton vs. Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein:
Hampton, at 325 pounds, is the stereotypical nose tackle. He's strong and a good run stuffer. Sendlein has played better over the past month, but he has struggled this season, especially with some of the best nose tackles in the league. Sendlein needs to hold up physically with as little as help as possible.
--RB J.J. Arrington will be limited in practice this week because of a knee injury suffered in the NFC title game against the Eagles. Arrington is a big part of the team's spread packages, but the Cardinals could plug in Tim Hightower and not sacrifice much.
--OLB/DE Travis LaBoy likely will be limited to a part-time role because of a biceps tendon injury. He will play with a brace, and it's hard to say how that might limit his effectiveness. Bertrand Berry, the starter, has played well in the playoffs, but with LaBoy hurt, there isn't much depth.
--WR Anquan Boldin's strained left hamstring is much improved and it shouldn't limit him in the Super Bowl.
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