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Cards and the Sup Bowl -- The Initial Key to Beating the RedBirds (Part 1 of a series)

January 20, 2009 by Still Mill

Sup Bowl initial key, Part 1 of a series
Cards and the Sup Bowl -- The Initial Key to Beating the RedBirds (Part 1 of a series)

This is part 1 of a series.�� The Stillers face the AZ Cards in the Sup Bowl on Feb 1st. There are several keys, but one, in particular, jumps off the page at me, and it warrants an immediate review.


Initial Key:The Cards 4-wide against the Stiller base defense, or some amalgam thereof.


Unlike Bruce Arians, Ken Cheezenhunt has a brain, and he uses it.Moreover, he�s seen, first hand, what can happen when you spread out the Steeler base 3-4 defense and render its run-stuffing abilities as useless as a spear in modern warfare.If Cheezen decides to go 4-wide, it will cause extreme problems for Dick and company.


The Stillers defense was, schematically speaking, awfully lucky in this 2008 season.�� They never once faced an offense with enough talent, savvy, experience, and skill to spread out the Stiller base and play 11-on-10.�� The last time this occurred was against the Patriots in Dec. 2007, when Brady and company simply abused, humiliated, and toyed with Dick LeBeau�s base 3-4 defense en route to a 34-13 asswhipping.In the 2nd half of this blowout, the Pats never tried a true running play the ENTIRE half, except for a couple plunges in garbage time at the very end of the game.Nonetheless, Dick the Dullard kept sending out Fat Casey Hampton, or Nick Eason, to do nothing more than paw and titty-joust with the center or guard at an area about 18 inches deep in the NE backfield.�� Dick wasn�t on the staff during the 2002 opener, in which NE did the SAME thing to this defense, but he should have been acutely aware of it, and he should have made an adjustment long before the 9:00 mark of the 4Q, when he finally pulled his NT for most of the remainder of the tilt.The Stillers filed a grievance with the NFL after this game, complaining about the unfairness of having to play 10 on 11, but the complaint fell on deaf ears with the NFL, as it should have.


The blueprint is there.Spread out the Stiller D, and force Dick�s hand as to whether to keep a fat, pudgy, out of shape 350-pound nose tackle in the game, or remove the fatass for someone who can actually harass, chase, penetrate, and make plays all over the field.


The root cause of this dilemma is the Cards� stockpile of playmakers who can catch the ball, and run well with the ball after the catch.�� Everyone is keenly aware of former Pitt-star Larry Fitz, who is dominating opposing defenses in a manner not seen since the heyday of Jerry Rice.Even when well covered, Fitz�s instincts, athleticism, body control, and hands are more than enough to come down with the ball at an alarming rate.It�s not just Fitz, of course.There�s Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, both of whom caught over 1,000 yards this season.Toss in the ultra gritty, very reliable Jerheme Urban -- a poor man�s Wes Welker -- and you have 4 receivers that can give defenses fits.Add in the receiving ability of Edge James and Tim Hightower, and you�re facing an uphill battle in the base 3-4.Note, of course, that the Cards aren�t an Al Davis offense that loves chucking the ball deep on every play.Rather, they are content to oftentimes carve opposing defenses with 9-yard slants, which often turn into 15, 20, and 25 yard gainers with their superb RAC abilities.��


We are keenly aware of Dick�s love affair with the base 3-4.It is designed to stuff the smashmouth offenses of the AFC North.It is not, however, designed to stifle a deep, ultra-precision, high-powered passing offense like the Cards.Having a pooped out, 350-pound run-stuffing NT does nothing to stop Warner, Fitz, and company.��

The Cards don�t run a 4-wide by nature, but I fully suspect Cheezenhunt is going to go with his strength.The solution?�� Dick has a couple of cards to play with (no pun intended).�� He can pull Fat Casey, and use a front 4 of Smith, Keisel, Harrison, and Woodley, along with 2 ILBs.This has some risk, as the Cards could try to muster a running game.However, you have to pick your poison -- do you want to give James 3.5 yards per carry, or Fitz 17-yard receptions against wide areas of open acreage?�� I�d certainly prefer if the Cards turn the game into a plungefest, and frankly, the Cards don�t have the horses to plunge the ball the way the Titans do with White/Johnson or the Ravens do with McClain/McGahee.The associated tactic is to pull Foote for Timmons. This gives you some speed, both on the blitz as well to limit RAC yardage on dumpoffs and short curls & slants.�� This could result in essentially a 4-2-5 alignment, with 4 defenders at the LOS, 2 ILBs, and 5 DBs.The associated variation is to add a 6th DB and use Timmons as a rusher in lieu of Smith or Keisel on obvious passing downs.��


The beauty of this is that the Stillers would be able to keep the max number of playmakers on the field at any given time, while also capitalizing on their incredible depth & versatility at DB and LB.Not many teams can roll out the likes of Townsend and Gay in the dime or nickel defense, in support of a solid starting 4 (Ike, McFadd, Pola, and Clark, who is the obvious weak spot.)�� Not many teams can sport the versatile, athletic barbarism of a LB corps that includes Harrison, Woodley, and Timmons.


Constantly going with slow, feeble, non-athletic stiffs like Hampton and Foote is a recipe for disaster.We�ve seen it, as recently as last December.Playing 10 on 11 is a recipe for disaster.Dick has the quick-footed athletic weapons at this disposal; the decision is his to make the adjustment and force the Cards into something other than a pitch n� catch scoring spree.An interesting side-note will be if Cheezen decides to go with a mere 3-wide, and see if he can still exploit the base 3-4.With Foote and Hampton in the game, he�d have a decided advantage as well.


More keys will be added as we lead up to game day.


(Still Mill and -- when it comes to the analysis of the Pittsburgh Stillers, no one else comes close�.)



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