TEMPE, Ariz. — Considering the way the Steelers' top-ranked defense has dismantled offenses across the league, it would seem logical to expect the Cardinals to be unable to conduct another air show in Super Bowl XLIII.
But that won't stop them from trying.
Arizona has no plans to deviate from its pass-heavy offensive scheme in the Feb. 1 game in Tampa. Now is not the time to depart from a script that has it one win from a world championship.
"You're going to hear about the numbers for two weeks," Cardinals guard Reggie Wells said. "But we have our numbers, too."
The Cardinals counter with an offense that was second in passing at 292.1 yards per game in the regular season. Arizona also was fourth in points (26.7), fourth in total offense (365.8 yards per game) and last in rushing (73.6 yards per game). While the Cardinals have certainly been more balanced in the postseason, they didn't get here by playing the wishbone, either.
"We got here playing the game the way we've played it and we have to go do that," said quarterback Kurt Warner, who threw for 4,583 yards this season — second most in his 11-year career.
"You have to say, 'Hey, this is our strength and we can put it up against their strength and (say), All right, here we go.' Two best teams, you put up your strength and whoever is better that day is going to win. I don't think you can go in and try to be something you're not."
Who are the Cardinals? They are a team that features a vertical (riskier) offense that is among the league's most enjoyable to watch. They are a team whose leading receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, has entered uncharted territory with an NFL-record 419 yards this postseason. They are a team that plays to win, not one that hopes to not lose.
The Cardinals' 13 pass completions of 40 yards or longer during the regular season ranked behind only the pass-happy Saints and the Packers. In the postseason, Arizona has four such completions.
Many of those came against defenses with reputations for preventing such plays. In a regular-season meeting against the Giants and their hard-nosed, fifth-ranked defense, the Cardinals weren't shy considering their 52 pass attempts. Against another stout defense, the Vikings, the Cardinals threw 50 times.
But the Steelers have a way of making it difficult for offenses to establish themselves. They stop the run against teams with great rushing attacks and they take passing lanes away from teams that thrive on throwing the ball.
Throwing against Pittsburgh exposes a quarterback to its wrecking ball pass rushers. And when the ball is airborne, few are better at takeaways than safety Troy Polamalu.
But the Cardinals are who they are, and there will be no identity crisis in this Super Bowl.
"I think you go out and say, 'This is what we are,' '' Warner said. "You go in there with a game plan and try to figure out weaknesses they may have and how that coincides with your strengths, and attack them accordingly.
"It's going to be fun, but it's going to be a huge challenge for us. It is a great football team we're playing."