For the past two weeks, I've been thinking of the two main issues in my mind about today's game. First was who I wanted to win, and the other was who I thought was going to to win. For a myriad (like that word?) of reasons, the two answers are different. I felt that, for the first week since the Ravens lost in the AFC Championship Game to the Steelers, that we should root for the team that beat us three times because that would have us losing to the Super Bowl Champions three out of six of our losses this past season. Losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champ takes a bit of the sting out of it to me. If the Steelers lost in the big game, then we sort of drop a bit in my mind. But then it all became real clear to me.
How in the world could I have ever thought this way? What was I thinking of when I actually thought about rooting for the hated Pittsburgh Steelers? If the Steelers win tonight, then they will never let up in telling us that they're the Super Bowl Champs - again! They will rub it in our faces when we see them twice (at least) next season. It's already bad enough that they will be able to remind us that they beat us three times and won the AFC North AND the AFC Championship over us. Adding the humiliation of hearing them gloat about winning the Super Bowl is just too hard to imagine. Seeing the tens of thousands Terrible Towels tonight in Tampa, when this game will have all the makings of a Pittsburgh home game, I wouldn't be surprised to see the stands black and gold covered in a ten to one ratio of Steelers to Cardinals fans. Seeing the smile on Hines Ward's face one more time will regurgitate all I hate about the team that barely beat us three times, but still beat us nonetheless. That pain just doesn't go away that easily and seeing them there instead of us will just regurgitate it again and again in the back of my throat.
Therefore, it is a no-brainer. From knowing what it feels like to win football's biggest prize for the first time, to the heart-warming story about the succcess of Kurt Warner, to the brave, heroic and patriotic legend of the late Pat Tillman (see earlier post this week about his legacy), there are so many reasons to root for the Arizona Cardinals. So many of the aforementioned reasons are reason alone to root for the players, team and success-starved fans of the Cardinals that the fact that they are playing the hated Steelers almost doesn't matter. However, it does indeed help!
Unfortunately, as much as I plan to put on my Pat Tillman #40 official replica jersey and root the red team on, I don't see them coming out on top in this game against the experienced and physical Steelers. Pittsburgh's offense can put the points on the board, with a physical running game and an always opportunistic passing attack. Ben Roethlisberger knows what he needs to do and usually is able to find a way to do it. They should be able to put enough points up on the board to hold off the offensive minded Cardinals. The Cardinals may have found their running game in the NFC playoffs, but that was against teams that in no way mirror the incredible defensive front that the Steelers put up. There is no way the Cards get the running game started and while they have an extremely dangerous passing attack, it isn't as potent when the defense knows it's coming play after play. If the Steelers can pin their ears back and go all out at rushing Kurt Warner, then he will be battered and beaten to a pulp by game's end and the tide will overwhelmingly turn in Pittsburgh's favor. The Steelers will rise up to their defensive reputation, create the turnovers and then run the ball down the Cardinals throats as the clock winds down.
While I'd love to see Larry Fitzgerald and hopefully future Ravens Anquan Boldin rip apart the Steelers secondary on their way to a win, I unfortunately expect to see the Pittsburgh Steelers hoist the Super Bowl trophy for the unprecendented sixth time, and then will never hear the end of it all next season. While that doesn't sit well by me, it is what I see happening form as objective of a position as I can take. My prediction? Steelers: 27-17
(NOTE: Feel free to use this post as an "Open Thread" for tonight's game.)