Monday, January 26, 2009

Under Pressure

We start off our Super Bowl preview rocking out with Freddy Mercury

To start our comparison of the two teams, we look at how they have performed....under pressure.

In games decided by less than 7 points:
Pittsburgh: 5-1 (0-0 postseason)
Arizona: 3-1 (1-0 postseason)

In games decided by 7-15 points (between 1 and 2 scores):
Pittsburgh: 1-2 (2-0 postseason)
Arizona: 2-2 (1-0 postseason)

In games decided by more than 2 scores (more than 15 points):
Pittsburgh: 6-1 (0-0 postseason)
Arizona: 5-4 (1-0 postseason)

From the way these numbers look, it appears Arizona's advantage, albeit a small one, lies in a margin between 7 and 15 points. Pittsburgh has more close victories than Arizona and a better record in "blowout" games.

The following are regular season numbers.

Ben Roethlisberger was out-passed in 6 games this season (including the Washington game which he left at halftime). In those 6 games the Steelers were 4-2. The Steelers were 8-2 in games where Ben out-passed the opposing quarterback.

Kurt Warner was out-passed 3 times, with the Cardinals going 1-2 in those games. The Cards were 8-5 in games where Warner out-passed the opposing quarterback.

No real advantages to speak of either way here. In spite of Arians and all he thinks (like 3rd and 2 being a passing down), the Steelers are not a pass-first team. Since they are a run-first team, it is not essential for Ben to have a big game for them to win. On the flip side, even when Warner has a big game, the Cards might not win, which is a trait of pass-first teams.

In games where a Steelers running back was the leading rusher, the Steelers are 9-2. In games when an opposing back was the leading rusher the Steelers were 3-2.

In games where a Cardinals back was the leading rusher, Arizona is 6-1. In games where an opposing back was the leading rusher, Arizona is 3-6.

The Steelers definitely have an advantage in the rushing department. Though Arizona is being hyped as a pass-first team with a wide open offense, the numbers don't lie. Controlling the ground game is crucial to their success.

This game is being hyped as the battle of a great offense against a great defense. We'll be looking at some more numbers throughout the week and comparing the two teams to see how they stack up on paper. But remember, the game isn't decided on paper. One thing both teams have done extremely well in the playoffs thus far is create turnovers. Turnovers are going to be the key to this game, one way or another. And I think we've seen many times this year a certain Troy Polamalu out-play one Ed Reed. Oh yeah, and James Harrison lead the league in forced fumbles...and Warner will put the ball on the turf. In 16 games this year he fumbled 11 times, losing 7 of those. Over the past two seasons Warner has played in 30 games and fumbled 23 times, with 13 of those ending up in the arms of the other team.

If we get pressure, he will cough it up.

And asking if a Dick LeBeau defense can get pressure is like asking if the Pope is Catholic.

Go Steelers!!

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