|Two Arizona QBs, two star receivers concern Steelers|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 29 September 2007 01:19|
Arizona's passing game presents the Pittsburgh Steelers with difficult matchup problems in the secondary because the Cardinals possess two of the NFL's most skilled receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, the onetime Heisman Trophy runner-up at Pitt.
``I don't think we're ever going to face two guys like that,'' linebacker Larry Foote said.
Complicating the Steelers' pre-game preparations is the likelihood that they'll see two quarterbacks Sunday in starter Matt Leinart, the former Southern Cal star, and former NFL MVP Kurt Warner.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt pulled an ineffective Leinart at halftime Sunday with Arizona trailing Baltimore 20-3. Warner, running a no-huddle, spread-type offense, came on to lead a second-half comeback in which the Cardinals tied it at 23 before the Ravens' Matt Stover kicked a game-winning field goal.
Leinart is the fourth consecutive relatively inexperienced QB to start against Pittsburgh this season, following Cleveland's Charlie Frye, Buffalo's J.P. Losman and San Francisco's Alex Smith.
None of the other three had any success against a Pittsburgh defense that has allowed a league-low 26 points and an average of 164.7 yards passing, which is sixth best in the NFL.
The Steelers suspect that if Leinart struggles early the way he did against Baltimore, they'll see Warner fairly quickly.
``I don't know, so many times we prepare for something all week long and a team comes out and does something else,'' Foote said. ``We're preparing for both of them. If they want to do this or they want to do this, it don't matter. We're going to come after whatever offense they're in. That's just our style.''
The Steelers have had previous problems with spread offenses and quarterbacks who get rid of the ball quickly, another reason they suspect that Warner will play at some point.
``Matt's never seen our (defensive) package, so he doesn't really know what we're capable of,'' defensive end Brett Keisel said. ``Kurt's been around, he's seen it all, and he knows how to prepare for it all. But we're going to stick with what we do if we got either one. Coach (Dick) LeBeau has a great package ready and we're not going to change a thing, we're going to come after them.''
While Leinart is in only his second season, Warner is in his 10th year but has never opposed Pittsburgh. He was hurt in 2003 when the Rams played the Steelers and did not play in a late-season 2004 Giants-Steelers game when New York started Eli Manning.
Still, Keisel predicted that Warner won't be surprised by anything the Steelers throw at him because ``he's been in the league 100 years.''
Warner has always been effective in a hurry-up offense because he gets rid of the ball so quickly. He was 15-of-20 for 258 yards and two touchdowns against Baltimore after Leinart was 9-of-20 for 53 yards.
``I just think it speeds your mind-set up, your thought process up,'' cornerback Deshea Townsend said of the no-huddle. ``It makes you a little more confused than anything. .. When they come out no-huddle, it kind of brain-freezes you more than anything.''
What makes the Cardinals' speedup offense even more effective are their two franchise-type receivers in Boldin (22 catches, 286 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Fitzgerald (15 catches, 192 yards, 0 touchdowns).
However, Boldin was listed as doubtful on Friday because of a bruised hip, meaning there is only a 25 percent chance that he will play. Arizona won't face Pittsburgh's top receiver, Hines Ward, who is out with a sprained knee. Neither Boldin nor Ward practiced this week.
Boldin has had two 100-catch seasons, in 2003 and 2005, and Fitzgerald had one in 2005, his second season in the league.
``You've got two guys that had 100 catches in one season together,'' Townsend said. ``That's pretty unheard of for a team to have one guy to catch that many. But two guys that can catch 100, that shows you the talent those two guys have.''