Big Al’s 2009 Super Bowl Picks

At 6:20 pm, our selection is on the ‘under’ in the Pittsburgh/Arizona game.  Two weeks ago, we played both conference championship games ‘over’ the total and were rewarded with a 23-14 Pittsburgh victory and a 32-25 Arizona triumph.  But off those two ‘overs,’ I’m going to reverse gears and look for a low-scoring game here.  I’m well aware that Arizona has a high-octane offense, but the Cards have yet to play a defense as good as Pittsburgh’s, and only one team this season has scored more than 24 points vs. Pitt, and that was Tennessee (in a 31-14 Titans win).  But the Steelers turned the ball over four times that afternoon against a strong Tennessee defense, and I don’t see Arizona’s defense forcing that many turnovers.  For the season, Pitt only committed three or more turnovers in three games (and was 0-3 in those games).  But the Steelers were 14-1 in games where they had two or less turnovers, so that’s really the key here.  And the three teams which forced the Steelers into all those turnovers were the Giants, Titans and Eagles — all with much better defenses than Arizona.  But Pittsburgh only surrendered 12.9 ppg outside of those three games, and really came on toward the end of the season when it gave up 14 points or less in seven of its last nine games.  The bottom line is that Pittsburgh is the better team than Arizona, and will most likely dictate the tempo of this game, and turn it into a “field position” game like we saw two weeks ago vs. Baltimore.  Indeed, this Steeler defense is the best to make a Super Bowl since Baltimore’s led it to the 2000 championship.  On offense, I look for the Steelers to pound the ball early with RBs Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore, and mix in some medium-range passing routes.  The Steelers’ offensive line has not impressed me this season, and the Cards’ defense will be able to sack QB Ben Roethlisberger (Arizona has had seven sacks in its three playoff games), which will limit Pittsburgh’s offensive output. But Pitt should play most of this game in the lead, and should the Steelers get out to a 14-point advantage, I would expect coach Mike Tomlin to make ample use of his running game, which would take time off the clock faster, and increase the chances that it goes ‘under’ the total.  With the line higher than any of the last 22 Steeler games, we’ll take advantage of the “inflation” and play the Super Bowl ‘under’ the total.  Good luck, as always…Al McMordie.