The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens, so on February 1 they will play the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl. It was a typical Steelers win: dominant defense and an offense that did almost everything that usually loses the game: blown touchdowns, stupid and costly penalties, a fumble, short yardage failure etc. Which only meant that they weren't leading 31-0 at halftime. The offense scored early and the defense won it with a turnover and run for a TD--a typical Steelers victory. The Ravens and their quarterback were completely confused and outmatched on offense, and their defense underperformed for the first half. It wasn't as close as the score, but of course with the Steelers it had to be too close for comfort.
Arizona is the surprise team, playing winning football at the moment but with not much precedent earlier. It's impossible to know how they will match up. They could get blown out. They could surprise the hell out of the Steelers and their fans. I'm guessing the national media is looking at this one way, but in Pittsburgh the talk is about the Arizona coaches, two of whom coached for the Steelers in their last Super Bowl victory in 2005, and both of whom--the head coach and defensive line coach--were considered for head coach in Pittsburgh and passed over. How personal is this, and how well do they know the Steelers--and what good will either do?
Apart from physical advantages, the Steelers also have a lot of players who've been to the Super Bowl, as has their current coach, Mike Tomlin. The Ravens inexperience in a playoff game was evident--could the SB rattle Arizona? Their quarterback has been in two, but the rest of the team is short on experience.
The Steelers had a great game plan against the Ravens, but they'd played them twice already this year. Coaching may be a wash so execution will be crucial, and even if Arizona pulls some tricks, if the Steelers stay disciplined in pass protection and run blocking on offense, and in pass rush and pass defense, they could befuddle any plans.
Fortunately, the game isn't this Sunday. I'm still groggy from the Inauguration--and from getting email from President Obama.