THESPORTSDOC- No whammies: Picking the Steelers by 14
Last year I was either brazen enough or naïve enough to attempt a Super Bowl prediction. "Lord willing and the creek don't rise; I take the Giants by three." I'm no oracle, so I considered it a fluke when my prediction came to pass. Still, as most people who hit the jackpot once, I'm going to press my luck again. No whammies.
Wouldn't it be great if the Arizona Cardinals brought home the trophy? Pardon me while I slip into Sports Illustrated jargon, but what a Cinderella story. If you've hitched your wagon to their star, you'd better start unhitching.
I'm not trying to take anything away from the Arizona Cardinals. If Kurt Warner doesn't tug at your heartstrings, you don't have a heart. If Warner were a woman, Lifetime TV would have made a movie of the week about him long ago.
The Green Bay Packers released the undrafted free agent after training camp in 1994, and Warner took a job as a stock boy on the night shift at a grocery store. After realizing minimum wage wouldn't support his new family, Warner swallowed his pride and joined the Arena Football family.
But Warner didn't get to play with the big boys in St. Louis until 1999. Since then, his NFL career has hit the highest of highs (he threw three touchdown passes in each of the first three games in the HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_NFL_season"1999 season) and the lowest of lows (he started 2002 with an 0-3 record, throwing seven interceptions and only one touchdown).
Since acquiring the quarterback in 2005, the Cardinals have kept him in a game of musical-bench with Matt Leinart. It wasn't until this year that the Cardinals made the 37-year-old a starter, a position he hadn't had since his 2004 stint with the New York Giants.
It's been Warner, along with receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has lifted Arizona out of perpetual loserhood. Next to the Cardinals, even the Chicago Cubs look like winners. The last time that franchise won an NFL championship was 20 years before the Super Bowl was even created. During the entire decade of the 1950s, the Cardinals won only 33 games– 2008 is the team's first winning season in 20 years.
If you're not crying yet, maybe this will get the tears flowing. The losingest franchise in NFL history is getting ready to face the League's most championed team. The Pittsburgh Steelers have won the Super Bowl five times, most recently in 2006. When the Cardinals take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, not only will they face a team with the best record in modern football, they'll meet the toughest quarterback in the NFL.
In 2007, Ben Roethlisberger brought the Steelers back from a double-digit deficit to a lead or tie in the 4th quarter five times. For crying out loud, Roethlisberger posted more records and better numbers after cracking his skull in 2006. If anything, Roethlisberger's numerous injuries have been the impetus for stellar play.
It usually takes a couple of weeks for Big Ben to turn his injuries into gold, e.g. week 9's game against the Redskins. The quarterback injured his shoulder, played dismally against the Colts in week 10, but completed 31 of 41 passes for 308 yards with no interceptions against the Chargers in week 11.
Luckily for the Steelers, Roethlisberger sustained a spinal cord concussion in the last game of the regular season. He was injured so badly he was carried off the field on a stretcher. The Steelers' playoff wins were assured right then and there.
The Super Bowl won't be a problem for Pittsburgh either. As heartwarming as a Cardinals' win would be, I just can't see it, not with a recently injured Roethlisberger in the mix. As a matter of fact, I predict Roethlisberger will throw one interception at the most, and the Steelers will take the ring by two touchdowns.