Everybody has a story. Mine was standing in the bowels of Raymond James Stadium, suit on and lugging my computer backpack among a host of other Super Bowl media types waiting for the game to end and to have access to players/the field. And watching the game on a TV – seven-second delay – as Fitz caught that crossing route and raced for that 64-yard touchdown, and seeing the crowd go crazy and roar. I remember the emotion smacking me hard enough I bent over for a moment to catch my breath, thinking, “Holy crap, the Cards are going to win this thing.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked earlier this week on his conference call about how long ago that Cards-Steelers Super Bowl seemed. His answer was succinct: “Eons.”
I can’t disagree. So much has happened in the two-and-a-half seasons since the last time the Cardinals and Steelers played a game that counted, which will happen again Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Steelers have been back to another Super Bowl, losing this time. The Cards have undergone a huge metamorphosis, losing one way or another many of key figures that played on that team in 2008.
Not only does the Super Bowl seem like eons ago, so too does that playoff game against Green Bay a year later, when the Cards lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine.
Now they have – at this moment in time – a chance to beat the Steelers, which in no way would make up for the Super Bowl loss but would be certainly welcome nonetheless, given their dire straits.
“It doesn’t erase the fact we got there and it was a good run for us,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think that’s what makes us so confident we are doing the right thing, as far as how we prepare and how we work.
“I’m more worried about where we are as a team right now and getting our team some wins.”
— Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett called the recent players meeting that included coaches – a rare occurrence – “one of the most emotional meetings I have ever been in.” The hope is whatever messages were delivered carry over. As Fitz said (and I am paraphrasing here), meetings are good but it comes down to playing on Sundays.
— The Steelers can be run on. They have the best pass defense in the NFL. This may be a weekend where running back Beanie Wells, now healthy from his hamstring issue, gets 30 carries (his career-high is 27, set against the Giants earlier this month).
— You figure the Steelers are going to test these young cornerbacks. Wide receiver Mike Wallace has established himself as one of the – if not the – scariest deep threat in the league. He already has five catches this season of at least 40 yards. He averages 21 yards a reception, and it will be one of the keys to the game how he is dealt with by cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and A.J. Jefferson.
— Speaking of Peterson, he may be a rookie, but he isn’t fazed by the Cards’ current rough patch. “My confidence will always stay high,” Peterson said. “I let bygones be bygones. I have amnesia. This team will continue fighting.”
— In terms of yardage gained on third-down receptions, this game will have the top two receivers in the NFL: Wallace (228 yards) and Arizona’s Early Doucet (214).
— Nice job by Kent Somers to ferret out the conditions of the conditional draft pick the Cards got in the trade that sent running back Tim Hightower to Washington and a pick plus defensive end Vonnie Holliday to Arizona. The Cards get a sixth-rounder unless Hightower plays in 60.41 percent of the offensive snaps for the Redskins. Currently, Hightower has played 54 percent of the snaps and shares time with Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. That doesn’t seem to be a good combination for the higher pick, barring an injury.
— With defensive coordinator Ray Horton seeing his former team Sunday, I wanted to remind everyone of the feel-good story from the offseason, when Horton gave his car to a Steelers cafeteria worker before leaving the team to come to Arizona.
— If you get to Big Ben, tackle him. It changes everything when you don’t.
I thought it was interesting today as Horton spoke and a visiting Pittsburgh writer asked about the matchup between Fitzgerald and cornerback Ike Taylor and what he thought of the matchup.
“Back in Tampa, there was a call late in the game where our guy caught a pass and went up the field,” Horton said. “I hope there is a lot of that this week.”
Of course, back in Tampa, Horton was working for the Steelers at the time and probably wanted to throw up when Fitzgerald split the defense for his touchdown. Today, though, the memory comes up and it’s “our guy.”
Tags: A.J. Jefferson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Ray Horton, Steelers, trade, Vonnie Holliday
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