Just sayin' here ... the 2008 Arizona Cardinals surrendered individual-game point totals of 56 points (to the New York Jets), 48 points (to the Eagles), 47 points (to the Patriots), 37 points (to the New York Giants) and 35 points (to the Vikings).
The Cardinals' defense allowed 36 touchdown passes this season. 36!!! The Steelers allowed 12. As head coach Mike Tomlin wrote on the team's blackboard yesterday, according to Dale Lolley's NFL From the Sidelines blog ...
black board in the team's locker room Thursday.
It's short for "We Eat That Shit Up."
The Steelers know and embrace their identity: They are a ferocious, violent football team. As coach Mike Tomlin wrote on a board the night before the Steelers' playoff win over Baltimore, "The most violent team wins."
For all that, they are not a dirty team, at least according to running back Brandon Jacobs, of the reigning world champ New York Giants (who beat the Steelers this season). During an ESPN interview yesterday, when asked to make a prediction, Jacobs said:
When we played against them, they're probably the most solid bunch, uh, great character.
"They aren't dirty, they respect football, and they respect their opponents. And they're a bunch of great guys. In playing against them and seeing that, that's special."
As Joey Porter's Pit Bulls noted way back on Oct. 4, following the first slugfest win over the Ravens and immediately preceding the nearly equally violent brawl with the Jacksonville Jaguars, they've had to establish their identity this year by necessity ... by pounding their way through the NFL's toughest schedule and against San Diego's and Baltimore's own tough guys in the playoffs ...
"The best players set the tone. For all his impetuous brilliance, Ben Rothelisberger is a tough guy. He's played through injuries all though his pro career, and he sets an example ... Again, it doesn't get any easier. But if the Steelers are going to forge an identity, it's going to be that of a tough, 'physical' football team. In other words, brutally violent."
The Steelers have a long history, going back decades, as a "physical" team. This year, they've stepped it up a notch. That's who they are. Just ask the NFL's second-most violent team, the Ravens, whom the Steelers defeated three times. For the Steelers, it doesn't get any easier against Arizona, but the Cardinals have encountered nothing like this. For them, it will get downright nightmarish on Sunday.
Following the win over Baltimore, Ben Roethlisberger repeatedly invoked references to his teammates as "a band of brothers" (coincedentally, JPPBs just happen to be reading the book "Band of Brothers," by historian Stephen E. Ambrose, about World War II's Easy Company, the inspiration for the excellent Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks-produced HBO series of the same name). During a media session, just yesterday, Rothlisberger explained:
if I ever were to have brothers, I'd want them to be you guys."
As reported by the AP's Alan Robinson yesterday, the sense of togetherness spans the entire team:
"You'll see us in (training) camp, there's 20 of us in one room together,"safety Ryan Clark said. "I think that adds a lot to your team. I think we're probably the only defense before we start the game, in our first huddle, you've got to hug everybody. We say to everybody that we love them."
That type of closeness creates a bond, Clark said, because, "to see one of us mess up, it's probably like the most disappointing look you'll ever see on a grown man's face because we feel like we let somebody down."
"We genuinely love each other," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Ben (Roethlisberger) has talked about being a band of brothers. It's really what it is. We care about each other. We care about each other's families. We know each other's families. We spend time with each other, just like we're a regular family. When you get that kind of chemistry, you've got a special team on your hands."Strong Character, Unsung Heroes & Faithful Fans
Team chemistry reflects team character -- the "character" referred to by the Giants' Brandon Jacobs -- and the marrow of this collective group of individual characters. From stars like Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu to lower-profile players such as Aaron Smith, Deshea Townsend, Max Starks, William Gay, Nate Washington, Chris Hoke, Darnell Stapleton, Mewelde Moore ... on and on ... this team has character. It's something that starts at the top (ownership) and permeates through the front office, coaching ranks, support staff and team roster. And the fans? Dunno about "character", but the fans definitely are "characters".
Talented players, a sense of identity, team togetherness, strong character, unsung heroes and faithful fans ... the Steelers have all this and more. All this and The Terrible Towel. Yes, The Terrible Towel.
* Gratuitous JPPB prediction: The Steelers will block a punt. For what it's worth, Arizona punter Ben Graham, a 35-year-old former Australian Rules footballer, is officially listed on the Cardinals' injury report as "questionable" with a bad groin. We're thinking there are probably not many more high-pressure situations for this guy (with limited NFL experience and a bad groin) to be in, than the Super Bowl in front of a worldwide television audience of 300 million people. Just sayin'. Something to keep an eye on.