The always-grueling Super Bowl bye week may turn out to hurt Arizona, big time. The general consensus in sports suggests that when you are that hot, you do NOT want to wait that long to play again. Moreover in this case give Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau that much more time to devise a strategy to shut down your potent offense. Advantage, Pittsburgh.
In better news for players on both teams, it seems that the media for the next two weeks will be focused squarely on the coaching matchup. Even in the week leading up to the AFC and NFC Championship games yesterday, some were anticipating some kind of grudge match pitting Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm's Cardinals vs. The Rooney Family and Mike Tomlin's Steelers. Whisenhunt did say after the NFC game but before the Steelers-Ravens game that he preferred to face Pittsburgh. But he said so more out of respect. He knows that he wouldn't be a head coach anywhere without his time on Bill Cowher's staff. Sure, he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh, in part so that he didn't have to move his family cross country. But I honestly don't think Whisenhunt can actually be upset by the Rooneys' decision and certainly not upset at Mike Tomlin in particular. If anything, maybe he should be upset at Bill Cowher. I mean, Cowher certainly seemed to earn the ability to name his successor like all these college coaches with much less success.
Regarding Whisenhunt, this suggests two possibilities: 1) Cowher didn't go to bat for Whisenhunt--or Grimm, we have to consider as well--in large part because he had loyalty to both Grimm and Whisenhunt or 2) Cowher's influence in the Rooney "circle of trust"-- to borrow a term from retired CIA Agent Jack Burns in Meet the Parents--wasn't all that great. Ultimately, the fact that both Grimm and Whisenhunt were vying for the job led the team to go in another direction entirely. Easier to do that and create something new than split your old loyalty. You see this in lots of things in life. I've been at companies where two middle managers are vying for an open upper-level position and the top brass ultimately brings in someone from outside.
Getting back to the point, all this attention given to the coaching matchup will give the players much less time in the spotlight, and should make their preparations for Super Bowl gameday much more efficient and focused.
One random concern I have about the Steelers is the location for this Super Bowl XLIII. Tampa Bay and its beaches are, shall I say, a bit more lively than Detroit where they played SBXL. I hope that the players still on the team from that season don't go crazy at the clubs this time 'round. They may want to stick it to the NFL after being stuck in Motown back in 2006!