WILL SB XLIII BE A SUPER MIS-MATCH?
Super Sunday is just a few days away as the nation’s football fanatics brace for one last hurrah of the season—the Super Bowl XLIII extravaganza between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals for NFL bragging rights that will last until the 2009 season kicks off around the Labor Day weekend.
The two teams are as different as night and day and yet there are some similarities between them.
Take the starting quarterbacking position, for instance. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was groomed during the first three seasons of his career by then-Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. They teamed up to help the Steelers win Super Bowl XL after the 2005 season.
On Sunday, Roethlisberger will be trying to win a second Super Bowl against his former mentor, while Whisenhunt attempts to concoct a game plan to make this not happen. After all, Whisenhunt knows the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense like no one else from another team. He helped design it. He taught Roethlisberger to run it.
And Roethlisberger has a score to settle with his former offensive coordinator. During Week 4 of the 2007 season, Whisenhunt’s Cardinals defeated the visiting Steelers 21-14.
However, after the 2008 season, the Steelers were No. 1 in the league in fewest yards, points and passing yards allowed.
Statistically, they have one of the NFL’s top defenses in the last quarter-century.
Former Steelers’ assistants Russ Grimm, now the assistant head coach /offensive line coach at Arizona and special teams coach Kevin Spencer are on Whisenhunt’s staff.
“I’m proud and happy for Coach Whisenhunt, Coach Grimm and Coach Spencer,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s going to be fun to play them again. They beat us the last time we played them at their place last year. Sunday’s going to be a real fun matchup.”
The 37-year old Kurt Warner, the Super Bowl XXXIV Most Valuable Player with the St. Louis Rams, came to the Arizona Cardinals’ training camp last summer with the idea of being the backup quarterback to young Matt Leinart.
Although Warner threw 27 touchdown passes in only 11 starts in 2007 when Leinart was sidelined with a broken collarbone, Leinart was restored as the starter after his injury healed during the off-season.
And the only reason Warner even came to training camp instead of retiring, was that he was promised by the Cardinals’ coaching staff that “the best quarterback is going to play.” Warner confidently predicted back in July, “I expect that will be me.”
“There were never any complaints from Warner,” Whisenhunt explained, “all he wanted was an opportunity.”
Warner made the most of the situation, beating out Leinart for the starting quarterback position and then having an MVP-caliber season in 2008 with 4,583 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and leading the Cardinals to their first NFC West title.
Sunday Warner will join Craig Morton as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to start Super Bowls for two different teams.
Pittsburgh’s second-year head coach, the 36-year old Mike Tomlin came into the league in 2000 when he was hired as a defensive backs coach by then Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coach Tony Dungy.
Tomlin’s first problem was that he was about the same age as his two veteran defensive stalwarts John Lynch and Ronde Barber. But Tomlin won them both over his first few days on the job with his vast knowledge about the defensive secondary.
“Everything he said made so much sense,” Lynch recalled. “He convinced me very quickly that if I did everything Coach Mike told me that I’d be a much better football player, maybe even the best in the league at my safety position.”
When Bill Cowher announced his retirement after the 2006 season, Steelers’ owner Dan Rooney was quick to hire Tomlin from Tampa Bay, despite the fact he would be one of the youngest head coaches in the NFL. Tomlin is only the third coach the Steelers have had since 1969.
On Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers will be trying to become the only team in NFL history to win six Super Bowls. They join the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers as the only teams to win five Super Bowls.
Pittsburgh also joins the Cowboys as the only teams that qualified for seven Super Bowls. However, Dallas has reached Super Sunday eight times.
Tomlin was quick to credit the team’s owners and their philosophy about running a franchise for their tremendous success over the years. “Their (Rooney family) expectations are a little bit higher than an AFC championship,” Tomlin said. We get an opportunity to pursue that.
“We’re proud to be tied for the most Super Bowl wins with two other teams,” Tomlin continued, “but it’s time to separate ourselves from the rest of the pack.”
This Korner believes the Pittsburgh Steelers will cover the seven-point spread the Las Vegas Boys have them favored by and win by a big score of 38-27.
KWICKIES…We were saddened by the tragic and untimely death of 38-year old Shane Dronet last week. Shane, who played for Bridge City High, the Texas Longhorns and several NFL teams, was one of the best football players from Orange County.
The Lamar Men’s basketball team halted its three-game losing streak with an impressive 71-65 win over Texas State in San Marcos Saturday afternoon. The Cards jumped off to a quick lead and then shot 49 per cent to protect that early advantage. Lamar improves to 2-3 in Southland Conference action and 11-7 overall. The Cards return home this week for games against Sam Houston State Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. and Texas-San Antonio Saturday also at 7:05 p.m. in the Montagne Center.
The Lamar Lady Cards won their fourth straight Southland Conference game, beating Texas State 64-61 at the Montagne Center in Beaumont Saturday. The win upped the Lady Cards’ record to 13-5 for the season as the nation’s top three-point shooter, Lamar senior Emily Spickler, connected on three-of-five from beyond the three-point line, improving to 45-for-78 for the season and the nation’s top three-point shooting percentage of .577.
The honors keep piling up for West Orange-Stark head football coach and athletic director Dan Hooks. Last weekend Hooks was inducted into Barbers Hill Sports Hall of Honor along with teammates on the 1956 state champion track team. Hooks joined Hollis Naquin, Donnie Myers and Gordon Speer on the quartet that set a state record (42.9 seconds) in the 440-yard relay. Speer, whose son Kevin is the son-in-law of Orange residents Earl and Vera Parker, also won the state 100-yard dash in :09.8 seconds and the 220-yard dash in :21.7 seconds in 1956.
A total of 22 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, Dan Fouts, Dan Dierdorf, Dick Butkus, Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones never appeared in a Super Bowl.
JUST BETWEEN US…USA Today polled football fans recently asking who they thought were the best NFL broadcasters and the NBC team of John Madden and Al Michaels was voted the best game announcers, getting 39 per cent of the 13,400 votes cast.
Madden was tied with Troy Aikman for best NFL analyst, Michaels got 42 % of the votes for the best NFL play-by-play announcer and Fox’s Tony Siragusa as the best NFL sideline reporter. Michael Strahan, in his first season on FOX NFL Sunday, surprisingly beat out Deion Sanders, Keyshawn Johnson and Shannon Sharpe as being the sharpest-dressed male NFL broadcaster.