Steelers Keys to Cover

So what do the Pittsburgh Steelers have to do to not only win Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals but cover the point spread?

We’re glad you asked because we’ve outlined some keys to a Steelers’ cover.

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Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Steelers a 7-point favorite over the Cardinals for Super Bowl 43. Considering the offensive firepower Arizona brings to the table, 7 points is a lot to lay if you like Pittsburgh but they do have several advantages on their side.

The best advantage the Steelers have is a defense that ranks first in the NFL. Pittsburgh allowed just 13.9 points per game in the regular season and just 157 passing yards, and 80.3 rushing yards per game. Safety Troy Polomalu is also a legitimate MVP candidate who can change the course of the game in a blink of an eye, while linebacker James Harrison is one of the best emerging defenders in the game.

If the Steelers are to win and produce a cover, they’ll need to crash the pocket and create pressure on Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, who has not been touched much this offseason. Warner is at his best when he has time to go over his receiving options, can step up in the pocket and get the ball out of his hands quickly. But like most quarterbacks, Warner is at his worst when the pocket crashes around him and he has defenders in his face.

Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is one of the best in the league at designing blitz schemes that confuse and befuddle opposing quarterbacks. The Steelers can’t allow Warner to get into a passing rhythm and pick them apart from the pocket. He’s not mobile, so Pittsburgh needs to use its blitz packages effective and get to Warner early and often.

Another key to the Steelers’ success will be limiting the big play. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are game-changers and have made huge plays all postseason. Polamalu blankets the field in coverage, but fellow defensive backs Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark and Deshea Townsend must step up and not allow Fitz and Boldin to get behind them. Keeping the talented duo in front of them is vital, and LeBeau has to make sure that Steve Breaston (the third of the Cardinals’ 1,000-yard receivers this season) doesn’t have a mismatch on a linebacker in coverage.

Offensively for the Steelers, the game plan is simple: run the ball effectively, convert on third downs and don’t turn the ball over. Pittsburgh has put games in the hands of its defense and nothing should change for the Super Bowl. Ben Roethlisberger must protect the ball and not get lazy in the pocket, while running back Willie Parker needs to make sure he’s effective so that the offense remains balanced.

Having a healthy Hines Ward in play will be beneficial, too. He practiced late in the week and is expected to play, so that’ll be a huge boost to both the passing and running game because he’s such an effective blocker. Hopefully he doesn’t have any setbacks with his knee and can provide a steady option for Big Ben opposite fellow wideout Santonio Holmes, who has game-breaking speed and potential.

More Super Bowl XLIII Coverage

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- Arizona Cardinals - what are the future odds?

- Super Bowl 43 Picks – Why the Cardinals won’ win the 2009 Super Bowl

- Super Bowl XLIII Official Game Preview: Cardinals vs. Steelers

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- Arizona Cardinals key to Cover Point Spread

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Posted: 1/31/09 11:00AM ET

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