Coach Ken Whisenhunt, above, seems to relish his upcoming pregame speech in a matchup where oddsmakers, analysts and likely most of the partisans at Raymond James Stadium expect or hope for a Steelers victory. The former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator under Bill Cowher said he has learned a few motivational tactics from the former coach that he'll use against his former team. "When Coach Cowher used to stand up and talk, I wrote all of that down," Whisenhunt said. "I told Coach Cowher that I have notebooks with little tabs in there from when he spoke before the championship game, when he spoke before the Super Bowl (in 2006), when he spoke at the minicamp meeting, all of those things. "I'd go back and look at those things and get ideas of where he was and what he was thinking about. … I've been in situations that I've learned from, and when we get into this type of situation, I use those things to help me get an idea of what direction I am going." Whisenhunt said he learned the benefits of note-taking from Jeff Van Note, his teammate with the Falcons from 1985 to 1986. "Seventeen years he was a player and he took notes in every meeting he was in," Whisenhunt said. And if he needs to go deeper into his material, perhaps he can pull from his season playing for three-time Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs.
Don't get defensive
Yes, Pittsburgh's defense finished the regular season ranked best in the NFL, allowing just 13.9 points and 237 yards per game. Yes, LB James Harrison was named the league's defensive player of the year, LaMarr Woodley is an elite young linebacker, and few players can disrupt or change the course of a game like SS Troy Polamalu. But the reputation of the defense has grown past the statistically provable to the mythical. One would think these 11 men in black and gold could stop Xerxes, left, at Thermopylae. (And how silly would the Spartans look then?) But the Cardinals defense has been markedly better in the playoffs than its middling performance in the regular season. In three games, it has produced 12 turnovers — eight interceptions — returned a fumble for a touchdown, forced a safety and produced seven sacks, a potential key with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger getting sacked 45 times in the regular season. S Antrel Rolle said he doesn't "buy into" arguments that the Cardinals deserve more respect or that the Steelers get too much. That will take care of itself Sunday, he said. "We get recognition come game day against our opponents," he said. "They know once they're done playing us … you ask that team how they feel about us."
You can dance … for inspiration
So why doesn't WR Larry Fitzgerald have a jaunty end zone dance? It doesn't have to be Chad Johnson's River Dance, but shouldn't he have something peppy to celebrate all those record-setting touchdowns? Nope. "I haven't danced since my prom, and it wasn't pretty," he said.
Do you come from a land down under?
P Ben Graham doesn't see himself as the trailblazer for football back home in Australia. "There's been guys before me," he said, mentioning that Darren Bennett came from Down Under to the NFL in 1995 and spent 11 seasons in the league. "But I am proud to be the first Australian to be in a Super Bowl." And that has created more interest for the game, one he didn't start playing until 2005. He retired after 11 years playing Australian Rules Football and, thanks to the success of Bennett, figured he'd give the NFL a shot. He was introduced to it by watching the Super Bowl on TV (regular-season games didn't make the airwaves there.) Much of what he knew as a pro in Australia transferred nicely in America. "You're playing a team sport, and you have a role to play, and the work ethic doesn't change," said Graham, 35. "The locker room antics and having to fit into a team culture, a team environment, doesn't change. As far as the specific skills, in Australia, everyone does everything. You're on the field 120 minutes. Everyone runs, tackles, kicks, catches. Here, it's just one role."
WR Steve Breaston, below, has been useful in the postseason (seven catches for 77 yards) in addition to his kick-returning duties, filling in as the No. 2 receiver when Anquan Boldin struggled with a hamstring injury in a division game win at Carolina. But Breaston doesn't so much see his role as punishing opponents for concentrating too much on record-setting top threat Larry Fitzgerald as being an equal partner in a receiving corps that became just one of five in NFL history to feature three players with 75 or more receptions.
"I got to the point where I feel (defenses) worry about me just as much as Larry and Anquan," he said. "I think we complement each other. What happens is you can't really single anybody."
Q&A | Jim Hart, former Cardinals QB
In this dizzying week of bird watching, we spotted one of the more prized Cardinals: four-time Pro Bowl QB Jim Hart, a 19-year veteran (1966-84) who spent his first 18 years with the St. Louis Cardinals.
For you, how meaningful is the Cardinals' Super Bowl appearance?
It's exciting. The Cardinals really have brought us back into the fold, so to speak. A couple of years ago when young Michael (Bidwill) took over the club, he's got an awareness of public relations and certainly a legacy in alumni. So he initiated an alumni weekend, and we've now had two of them, and they've been very successful and brought back a lot of the guys from St. Louis. So we're back to being Cardinals fans again.
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