Edgerrin James (Scott Halleran/Getty)
The Cardinals are in the Super Bowl. How sweet that sounds to the long suffering fans who call their home Arizona. As constant underdogs, the Cardinals have yet another upset to pull off if they are going to truly “shock the world." Kurt Warner leads the surging Cardinals against the stingy Steelers defense. Tyson Qualls has the keys to bringing the Lombardi trophy back to the desert.
1. Go Big or Go Home: The Steelers defense will be focusing on superstar Larry Fitzgerald. If the Cardinals are going to be successful the other receivers have to step up, especially Anquan Boldin. He loves playing on the big stage and this will be a great chance to show the country just how underpaid he actually is. Boldin is one of the best at running after the catch, so look for an early screen pass to get him started.
2. Contain Big Ben: Ben Roethlisberger’s playground style of football is at its best when he is flushed from the pocket. He is mobile for a big guy and can make great plays on the run.
If the Cardinals are going to win they need to pressure him from the sides and force him to become a pocket passer. Their defense has been great at reading the quarterback and has been a force throughout the playoffs. If the defense can fluster Big Ben early, it may send him into flashbacks of his disgusting Super Bowl performance against Seattle.
As long as the refs don't hand the Super Bowl to the Steelers once again, the Cardinals will have a serious chance at an upset (Seahawks players and fans have still not recovered from the NBA-esque referring experience in 2005).
3. Run Enough to Keep’em Honest: Hoping for another 100-yard game from Edgerrin James may be a little over zealous. The Steelers have a suffocating defense led by their Pro Bowl caliber linebackers.
That said, the Cardinals must be able to run a decent amount if they are going to pull out a victory. Tim Hightower will need to step up on short yardage and Edge must get three to four yards on almost every carry. The Cardinals run game has surprised during the playoffs and it will need to do so one more time. The health of J.J. Arrington will be another important factor as he provides that home run ability that the two other running backs lack. The running game has to be solid enough to keep the Steelers from having two safeties over the top at all times.
4. Force the Steelers to the Air: The Cardinals will benefit immensely from an early lead as the Steelers will have a difficult time throwing consistently against an improved secondary.
The Steelers are a smash mouth, grind-it-out football team and they are much more comfortable sitting on a six point lead for three quarters. If the Cardinals can get a few quick scores, the shock factor will definitely set it against a defense that considers itself the best.
Kurt Warner will be the main force behind this key as his ability to read the blitz could have the Cardinals scoring all day long.
5. Be Aware of Underdogs: Few teams have played the role of underdog as well as the Arizona Cardinals. During their Cinderella run, they have defied the odds and cost Vegas quite a bit of money.
They have proven to be a force both at home and on the road. Their defense has been playing with a chip on their shoulder and Warner to Fitzgerald has become a constant occurrence. If they can muster that anger for one more game, then they will be on their way to bringing a Super Bowl to Arizona for the first time in history.
Tyson Qualls can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org