Arizona 24 – Pittsburgh 20, Jeff Dooley, Flat Hat Managing Editor
I’d love to give the nod to Tribe alum Mike Tomlin and his Steelers here, but I just can’t do it. For one, the Cardinals have the whole “team of destiny” thing going for them. Second, the Steelers have been playing damn near perfect football the past two weeks, and I think if they come out firing at less than 100 percent they could get knocked back on their heels a bit.
1.) Arizona keeping Kurt Warner off his back.
2.) Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to throw deep against ’Zona’s corners.
3.) Anquan Boldin. You know after all the hubbub about his sideline dustup with OC Todd Hailey, and all the canonization of Larry Fitzgerald stories written this week, that Boldin’s going to end up being the difference in the game.
Pittsburgh 23 – Arizona 17, Andrew Pike, Flat Hat Sports Editor
While I love watching Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. out-jump, outrun, and outplay defenders, I have a hard time believing Kurt Warner and the Cardinals’ offense can overcome Pittsburgh’s physical league-leading defense. Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and James Farrior — all on the AFC’s 2009 Pro Bowl team — backbone a defense that has held opponents to only 44 rushing yards per game in the playoffs, which means Arizona’s up-and-down running attack will go nowhere Sunday.
Without a consistent ground game to defend against, the Steelers will hone in on the Cardinals’ one-dimensionial offense.
I like Pittsburgh to grind it out behind running backs Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore and big Ben Roethlisberger, who will find Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward enough to keep Arizona honest. It won’t be a pretty game, but that’s how Pittsburgh wins.
Arizona 24 – Pittsburgh 14, Matt Poms, Flat Hat Assoc. Sports Editor
After a month of picking games with all the accuracy and foresight of a Brett Favre pass attempt, I’ve learned my lesson. Tomorrow, the Arizona Cardinals will win their first championship in 61 years.
Item 1: Defense wins championships. The Steelers undoubtedly have the stronger defense, but the Cardinals’ front four are no slouches themselves and have the ability to pressure Ben Roethlisberger.
Item 1a: Shaky quarterback play loses championships. While Roethlisberger has been solid, if unspectacular, throughout this postseason, he remains a wild card for the Steelers’ title hopes.
If Big Ben can take care of the football and turn in a Trent Dilfer-esque Super Bowl performance, Pittsburgh will be in great shape to rely on its defense to win the title. However, if Roethlisberger reverts to midseason form and turns into a Romo-like turnover machine, then Arizona will be in great position to take advantage. Remember, in Super Bowl XL, Roethlisberger was 9 for 21 with two interceptions and only 123 yards; the Miami (Ohio) product has never been confused with a big-game performer.
Meanwhile, Kurt Warner, is among the most experienced and successful postseason quarterbacks of all time, who protects the football and piles up yardage and big plays. Paired with two elite wide receivers (and yes, Anquan Boldin will have a huge effect on this contest despite his recent bickering), Warner will lead his squad out of the proverbial (and literal) desert and to a Super Bowl title, cashing in the game’s MVP award along the way.
Pittsburgh 24 – Arizona 14, Chris Weidman, Flat Hat Assoc. Sports Editor
The Super Bowl XLIII winner will be the Philadelphia Eagles. Maybe I have not recovered from my Birds’ devastating loss in the NFC Championship game (something I have grown accustomed to), but I can tell you this: The loss was a fluke, and so are the Arizona “they are who we thought they were” Cardinals.
Over the last two weeks, I have heard countless talking heads spout off reasons why the Cardinals will win and how their pick is somehow so unique, but once Arizona loses all the commentators will all reverse course and say how obvious it was that Pittsburgh was the superior team.
It’s simple: the Steelers D will bring the heat, knock Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin at the line and plant Kurt Warner like a tulip. Ben Roethlisberger will hold his own and let MVP Willie Parker do the rest.