Five to Watch: Cardinals vs. Steelers

Ken Whisenhunt (Chris Graythen/Getty)

Ken Whisenhunt appears pretty confident this week in Tampa. He seems sure that the Arizona Cardinals will play like the Cardinals of the postseason. Does he have reasons to be confident? Jason Harris breaks down which five players or units will make or break the Cardinals quest for the Lombardi Trophy.

QB Kurt Warner

Warner and the Cardinal's passing attack will face their toughest challenge of the season when they bang heads with the NFL's toughest defense in Tampa. The Pittsburgh Steelers ranks number one in pass defense and second at stopping the run.

It's no secret the Cardinals go as Warner does. The Cardinals lost all six games this season when Warner finished with a passer rating less than 85. In three playoff games this season, Warner is averaging 20 completions on 30 attempts for 256 yards and more than two touchdowns, not to mention less than a pick a game.

If the offensive line can continue to protect Warner, The Cardinals are tough to stop. A task easier said than done considering the Steelers defense has record the second most sacks in the league.

WR Dynamic Duo

Larry Fitzgerald has been a monster in the playoffs. If the trend continues there won't be enough defenders on the field Sunday to stop him. No one is going to benefit more from Fitzgerald double teams than Anquan Boldin.

A master of running after the catch, the more one-on-ones Boldin gets the more likely the Cardinals put up big points on Sunday. What better way to get a new contract and make everyone forget about his training camp troubles than by showing up big in the biggest game in the franchises history.

Rush Defense

Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, and Brian Westbrook couldn't get it done, now Willie parker will take his shot at a Cardinals rush defense that has been lights out. Steelers wide out Hines Ward and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are bang up so expect the smash mouth Steelers to try and run early and often.

After beating three top-10 offenses in the playoffs, the Cardinals may actually have the upper hand against a Steelers offense that ranks in the bottom third in the league. There isn't one person to point out. The front-seven as a unit has been large and in charge as of late. If the Cardinals want to win it's simple. They must continue to stop the run.

S Adrian Wilson

There has been plenty of media coverage on one Pro Bowl safety playing the Super Bowl. Unfortunately that talk wasn't about Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson. Troy Polamalu has been showing his stuff in big games for years, now it's Wilson's turn.

Wilson has it all, speed, size, strength, and the cover skills to make big plays in the passing game. One big hit on Pittsburgh's walking wounded, Ward or Roethlisberger could put the Cardinals in great position for a Super Bowl Trophy.

Special Teams

The impact of special teams is always heightened during the winner take all intensity of Super Bowl. So often we see field position, spectacular kick returns or field goals missed or made decide the outcome. Cardinals' kicker Neil Rackers is having one of his best years after back-to-back disappointing season. Much like Boldin, what better way to get on the good side of Cardinal Nation than to make big plays in the biggest games.

Late season punting addition Ben Graham could earn himself a spot on the roster next year if he can continue to punt with power and accuracy. He consistently boots balls 50-plus yards or drops them inside the five to give the Cardinals defense plenty of field to work with.

Kick coverage has been an issue this season and the Steelers have home run speed at the position but with a few weeks to prepare the Cardinals should be set. The Cardinals also have return power of their own. Anything goes in the Super Bowl. Enjoy the show.

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