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Author Topic: Steelers vs Cards (how we stack up)  (Read 2396 times)
Manimal
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« Reply #10 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 09:08 »

Great topic! I like the breakdown and more or less agree. I think it's really, really hard to evaluate the Cardinals because when you compare these two teams, you have to consider the competition they faced.

The Steelers played a far, far, incomparably more difficult schedule than the Cardinals faced.

During the regular season, the Cardinals went 6-0 against their division of cruddy teams. They wen 3-7 against everyone else. We all know that they were blown away by several good teams they faced.

That they've played so well in the regular season has been overshadowed by their very good play in the postseason. And rightly so. Maybe the Cards have suddenly gotten better.

But let's consider another interpretation. The teams the Cardinals beat in the postseason aren't all that good either. The beat two teams from the NFC South, and I think an argument can be made that the teams of the NFC South, like the teams from the AFC EAST, had their records inflated by playing a soft schedule. The NFC South played the AFC WEST and the NFC NORTH. The AFC West was one of the worst divisions in recent memory. And the NFC North was won by a pretty one-dimensional Vikings team. The Bears were no better than an average NFL team. And the Packers and Lions stunk.

The Eagles, for all their late-season heroics, were also barely over .500.

I realize that an argument could be made the Steelers benefitted from some very, very lucky seeding as well. We didn't have to play the Colts, Patriots, or Titans, and got instead an 8-8 division winner without their top RB and a good team with a rookie QB. But still: our regular season speaks for itself, unlike the Cardinals'.

Bottom line: I think there's a lot of hype around the Cardinals, and they do have some weapons, but they are basically an average to above-average NFL team.

The Steelers will win in a blowout.

To return to the topic of this thread for a minute, let's look at, not comparing units, but at looking at their competition. So:

1. Ben against the Cardinals pass defense vs. Warner against the Steelers pass defense.
Ben is going to have to be careful with the ball but he's also going to have to make some plays and convert some key third downs. The Steelers should be able to do this. One huge factor in the steelers's favor is that the Arizona pass rush has been very weak all season. Ben should have time to throw, and, even if he doesn't from the occasional blitz, he's going to be able to to his John Elway routine and make big plays. The Cardinals were torched by some good passing offenses with deep receiving corps this season, and this will be no exception.

ON the other side, Warner is obviously going to face a level of defensive play he hasn't seen all year. I was impressed with how they handled a very good Eagles defense but even the Philly defense is not in the class of a historically great Steelers' d. The difference between the steelers defense and the EAgles is that Pittsburgh can shut down the run, prevent the deep pass, and apply pressure on any given play without conceding the other elements. The Eagles had to guess; the Steelers don't have to. Warner will be pressured; the speed of the LBs and Polamalu will make the quick slants and outs very difficult for the Cardinals. The big play is something the Steelers have shut down this year, and, historically, Dick LeBeau's defenses are excellent at shutting down the other team's top receiver. To me, this all spells trouble for the Cardinals. A lot of trouble.

EDGE: Pittsburgh.

(I'll continue in another post)
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BleedGreen710
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« Reply #11 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 09:09 »

Another intangible: Tomlin wanting to prove to the Rooneys that they hired the wrong guy; Whisenhunt want to prove to them they hired the wrong guy.

Advantage: The ever-so-disciplined Tomlin who, no doubt, approaches this game with his utmost professionalism (which, for a guy does this almost every single day, says a lot).

I think tomlin wants to prove to the Rooney's that they hired the right guy??  Just playing...I knew what you meant. clap
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« Reply #12 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 09:10 »

Another intangible: Tomlin wanting to prove to the Rooneys that they hired the wrong guy; Whisenhunt want to prove to them they hired the wrong guy.

Advantage: The ever-so-disciplined Tomlin who, no doubt, approaches this game with his utmost professionalism (which, for a guy does this almost every single day, says a lot).

Another intangible: The Cardinals passed on Big Ben in the '04 draft (granted, to draft Fitzgerald) and he has repeatedly said that that motivates him. Plus, he wants to redeem his Super Bowl XL performance.

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Joetorious
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« Reply #13 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 09:25 »

Another intangible: Tomlin wanting to prove to the Rooneys that they hired the wrong guy; Whisenhunt want to prove to them they hired the wrong guy.

Advantage: The ever-so-disciplined Tomlin who, no doubt, approaches this game with his utmost professionalism (which, for a guy does this almost every single day, says a lot).

I think tomlin wants to prove to the Rooney's that they hired the right guy??  Just playing...I knew what you meant. clap

Wrong - I meant to say "correct," not "right" - as evidenced by my edit.  B)
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Manimal
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« Reply #14 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 09:28 »

1. Ben against the Cardinals pass defense vs. Warner against the Steelers pass defense.
Ben is going to have to be careful with the ball but he's also going to have to make some plays and convert some key third downs. The Steelers should be able to do this. One huge factor in the steelers's favor is that the Arizona pass rush has been very weak all season. Ben should have time to throw, and, even if he doesn't from the occasional blitz, he's going to be able to to his John Elway routine and make big plays. The Cardinals were torched by some good passing offenses with deep receiving corps this season, and this will be no exception.

ON the other side, Warner is obviously going to face a level of defensive play he hasn't seen all year. I was impressed with how they handled a very good Eagles defense but even the Philly defense is not in the class of a historically great Steelers' d. The difference between the steelers defense and the EAgles is that Pittsburgh can shut down the run, prevent the deep pass, and apply pressure on any given play without conceding the other elements. The Eagles had to guess; the Steelers don't have to. Warner will be pressured; the speed of the LBs and Polamalu will make the quick slants and outs very difficult for the Cardinals. The big play is something the Steelers have shut down this year, and, historically, Dick LeBeau's defenses are excellent at shutting down the other team's top receiver. To me, this all spells trouble for the Cardinals. A lot of trouble.

EDGE: Pittsburgh.

2. Steelers running game against the Cardinal front 7 vs. the ARZ running game against the Steelers front 7.

The Vikings and Patriots -- comparable to the Steelers in their ability to stop the run -- held the Cardinals to 44 and 43 yards in their games in December. The Cardinals and Edgerrin James did run well against CArolina, and many people are pointing to that as evidence that the Cardinals have rediscovered their running game.

This is a MYTH. People just assume the Panthers have a good run defense, because in a typical year, they do. This year, their run defense was horrible, though. The Giants ran the ball for over 300 yards on Carolina, and the Panthers finished in the bottom third of the NFL in rushing yards allowed and avg per attempt. Moreover, the Panthers' D was on the field a long time thanks to Delhomme the turnover machine and the big lead put the Cards in rushing mode.

Bottom line: the Cardinals will have zero ability to run on Pittsburgh. Hampton & Smith will do their typical dirty work clogging up the middle. The LBs and Keisel will be brutally effective at stopping the outside runs. If the Cardinals run for 50 yards in this game, I will be surprised.

The Steelers' running game: Pittsburgh's running game has indeed been spotty. The Cardinals' front 7 has been all over the board in their run defense. But the Steelers have the advantage of having just gone up against Baltimore. The Cardinals will look like they're in slow motion compared to the Ravens. And besides, the Steelers don't have to run the ball great against Arizone. They just have to be decent. And, based on the Cardinals' season, there is just no way they aren't going to be at least that in Tampa.

Moreover, the flow of the game should give Pittsburgh a chance to improve their running productivity as the game goes on. Arizona is simply not going to be able to sustain long drives. The Steelers should be able to get an early lead, which will compound Arizona's problem. As the 'Zona defense is on the field longer and longer, they will wear down, and the Steelers will simply own the 2nd half, and Willie will get to 100.

A quick statistical tidbit. Much has been made of the Cardinals shutting down the Falcon and Panther running games. But let's recall that against the Falcons, the Cardinals used a gameplan similar to the one we used against the Flacco-led Ravens: they committed to shutting down the run and forced the rookie to make plays under pressure. Against Carolina, that game got quickly out of hand because of the Delhomme picks, and I think Carolina got impatient too early and abandoned the run.

I think the Steelers won't run roughshod over the Cardinals like they're the browns, but they don't need to. They need to set the foundation of the running game in the 1st half to set up Ben's passing, and in the 2nd half the stats will look better on a worn-down CArdinals' d. At the half, the Steelers will probably have run the ball 12 or so times for a 3.3 yard average; in the 2nd half they'll add 20 carries with a 5.0 yard average.

The Cardinals, again, will not get 50 yards for the game, IMO.

Running Game: BIG EDGE, Pittsburgh.

My prediction for the game -- this game is going to look a lot like the Tampa Bay - Oakland Super Bowl.  When a great pass defense plays a great pass offense, go with the nasty D.

Final Score: Steelers 34, Cardinals 13.

I think Polamalu, Harrison, Farrior, or Woodley will get the MVP. Lawrence Timmons will make a big play or two and he could sneak in for the award. Big Ben will have an efficient game, though I think he will make one mistake, and finish with a line like 22 of 32 for 245 yards, a TD and an INT. Parker will get to 100 yards.

Super Bowl Champs, baby!
« Last Edit: Jan 20, 2009 at 09:30 by Manimal » Logged
BleedGreen710
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« Reply #15 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 09:28 »

Another intangible: Tomlin wanting to prove to the Rooneys that they hired the wrong guy; Whisenhunt want to prove to them they hired the wrong guy.

Advantage: The ever-so-disciplined Tomlin who, no doubt, approaches this game with his utmost professionalism (which, for a guy does this almost every single day, says a lot).

I think tomlin wants to prove to the Rooney's that they hired the right guy??  Just playing...I knew what you meant. clap


Wrong - I meant to say "correct," not "right" - as evidenced by my edit.  B)

I knew not knowing how to read would come back to haunt me at some point....
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« Reply #16 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 09:59 »

Some good stuff here, guys.

I agree that the Cards faced some lesser light defenses.  The Falcons and Panthers are both middle of the road.  Eagles defense is pretty good, though.  But as much as you can celebrate a 5-5-1 team making the cut, you have to remember that they were 5-5-1 for a reason, and that inconsistency bit 'em in the ass.

According to the fabulouf Finny numbers, I have the defenses they faced as follows in my final power rankings:

Atlanta Falcons, -26.6067, 24th.
Carolina Panthers, 0.9458, 14th.
Philadelphia Eagles, 80.9304, 3rd.

They'll go up against Pittsburgh Steelers, 97.5853, 1st.

The variance in these ratings was the Steelers to the Lions at -91.something.  Negative ratings are not particularly good, and neither are 0~ish ones.  That makes the dominance over the Eagles in the first half and for the last drive anomalous; however, for as great as Jim Johnson is as a DC (with Kiffin and the Ageless One, undoubtedly the best and most consistent three of the last decade), he has a much higher propensity to blitz, higher even than LeBeau.  Blitzing is a gamble: win big, lose big.  LeBeau is more of an artist, knowing when to call the blitz, knowing not to over-use it. 

Steelers have faced two offenses this postseason:

San Diego Chargers, 60.8600, 1st.
Baltimore Ravens, 4.8600, 14th.

Neither did particularly well. 

Cardinals are no slouches:

Arizona Cardinals, 34.8600, 4th.  Undoubtedly, they'd rank much higher in the post-season, but I don't have a way of doing that yet.

The swing on offensive rankings is Chargers down to Browns, -72.something. 

Way I see it, the Steelers D will do what it does.  The O will presumably fare about as well as it did against the Chargers' D:

San Diego Chargers, 12.0080, 17th.
Arizona Cardinals, -14.0641, 18th.

17th or 18th best D, doesn't matter much: we should be able to move the ball better than we did against the hellish sched we had most of the year, including Ravens (2nd), Eagles (3rd), Titans (5th), Redskins (8th), Giants (9th), Cowboys (10th), Bengals (15th... ?!?), etc. 

Noted, these are calculated not from yardage, but from a number of stats, and have some eccentricity.  But having the top 3 teams in those calculated rankings comprise 3 of the 4 conference championship teams isn't too shabby.

Using the Pitt-SD DP game as a baseline, which I see as a 35-17 win (plus a garbage TD; the math predictor came pretty damned close to getting that margin right, BTW), the score by quarter was 7-7, 14-7 Pitt, 21-7 Pitt, 35-17 (24*) Pitt. 

So 35-17 sounds about right here, too.  They'll draw some blood early, get shut down, chip some in late after we get up on 'em.







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« Reply #17 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 10:06 »

So 35-17 sounds about right here, too.  They'll draw some blood early, get shut down, chip some in late after we get up on 'em.

I think this is about how it will go.

One thought I've had about the 'Zona strategy to defend the pass in this game. I think they may try to play a bit like the Seahawks played us in the Super Bowl: minimal blitzing, in an effort to prevent creating opportunities for Ben to make big plays when the play breaks down, and lots of guys in a conservative zone.

In short, I think they'll try to force Ben to play dink and dunk football. This could be dangerous for us -- I would prefer they gamble and blitz and dare Ben to make big plays, because while he will get sacked if this happens, he will absolutely torch them with multiple big plays.

But if they do go coverage-heavy instead, the Steelers will be able to run the ball very effectively and Ben is simply not the QB he was as a 2nd year man. He is a much more patient passer these days, and he will happily pick apart the Cardinals with little dinks and dunks, which will create opportunities for our receivers -- who are among the best in the NFL in YAC -- to make plays just running the ball after short receptions.
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« Reply #18 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 10:20 »

Just to return to p2. of this thread...

Predictor had the Panthers winning only by 2, when most thought they'd blow the Cards out.  ;Well, even so, that was a miss.  ;Predictor totally got Delhommed.

It called the Ravs-Tits game as Ravs by 12, where the margin was 13-10 in a game where the Tits dominated.  ;Of course, we dominated their asses, too, and we should have won by more.  ;Of course, Predictor said we'd only win by 3 over the Ravs, so perhaps we over-performed?  ;Somehow?  ;Anyway, two misses on the margin.

Eagles-Giants it called Eagles by 14; Igs won it by 12.  ;Close enough.

Steelers-Bolts it called Steelers by 17.  ;As noted, I feel this was a 35-17 game with a junk TD late, so close e-damned-nough.  ;

For the SB, Predictor is very confident of the Steelers:  ;

Steelers 94.5034
Cards: 12.8299
Confidence (difference): 81.6735.
Confidence in SD game in DP round: 41.1081.  ;So more confident overall of a win than against the Bolts.

Breaking down the units, using regular season rankings:

Steelers O: 0.2600
Cards D: -14.0641
Winner: Steelers O (+14.3241)

Cards O: 34.8600
Steelers D: 97.5853
Winner: Steelers D (+62.7253)


Delta: 77.0495
Margin: 27

So, for the WC, Margin Predictor was 4/4; for the DP, 2/4; for the CC, 1 wrong, 1 incomplete.  ;Or, 6/9 or 66.7% overall in getting not just the winner (80% in that) but the margin itself, with that Steelers' game counted as a hit.

So, FWIFW, this thing is calling for another SB blowout, with the Cards getting schooled.

Not sure I personally have that much confidence, but say we allow them to get what SD did without the junk TD, i.e. 17 points...  ;Adjusted down a bit due to SD being #1 and Arizona being #4...  ;Predictor is looking at something like 41-14, Steelers.  ;Which is... wow.  ;Pretty big.

If we win that big, I think Ben and FWP are both having huge days, not to mention another classic Steeler D kinda game.  ;But the MVP voters like those gaudy offensive stats, so Ben MVP in his second time hoisting the Lombardi.

Hope to hell this thing works out like that.  ;I'd personally see this as more a 35-17 kinda game, with one of the D guys getting the MVP, maybe Troy. 
« Last Edit: Jan 20, 2009 at 10:22 by Finnegans Wake » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: Jan 20, 2009 at 10:26 »



So, FWIFW, this thing is calling for another SB blowout, with the Cards getting schooled.

Not sure I personally have that much confidence, but say we allow them to get what SD did without the junk TD, i.e. 17 points...  ;Adjusted down a bit due to SD being #1 and Arizona being #4...  ;Predictor is looking at something like 41-14, Steelers.  ;Which is... wow.  ;Pretty big.

I like those odds, if they are accurate. I feel very confident about this game, and I'm predicting a big win, though I do think our Steelers have the tendency to make just enough mistakes turn a blowout into a closer game.

We should have gotten up 20-3 on Balty, for example, a lead which would have opened the floodgates to huge lopsided blowout, as Flacco's interceptions would have come a lot earlier. But, alas, we saw what happened.

(We should  have blown out the Seahawks, too -- if Ben's interception was a FG drive instead, the pressure on Hasselbeck would have created turnover opportunities for us that could have snowballed...but, again, we saw what happened.)
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