Why was the Steelers' offensive line so effective versus the Cardinals, both in the Super Bowl and in the pre-season game last week? Much of it has to do with the players they have to block every day in practice. Let's face it, by comparison, having blocked the likes of James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley all week in practice, to then have to block Clark Haggans and Chike Okeafor would be a very welcomed reprieve.
The Cardinals like to play their two offensive tackles, Mike Gandy and Levi Brown on islands. This is an especially risky proposition when playing teams like the Steelers. What makes this proposition even more risky is the fact that there is little the Cardinals can do in practice to assimilate the type of rushing prowess Gandy and Brown will have to face during the games. Thus, conversely, going from having to block Haggans and Okeafor to then having to block Harrison and Woodley is a rather daunting task.
The two Cardinal offensive lineman who have shown significant improvement in pass protection are Reggie Wells and Deuce Lutui...well, is it any coincidence that they have had to block Antonio Smith and Darnell Dockett every day in practice?
Good players not only make their units better, but they make the players across them better.
Is there any question that DRC's swift rise to sudden stardom last year had something to do with having to cover #11, #81 and #15 in practice every day? You bet it did.
Getting back to Gandy and Brown...what can the Cardinals do to help them improve when they don't have players across from them in practice the caliber of the ones they will typicallly face in the games?
For one, the coaches can try to give them a little help, especially early in games, by "chipping" the defensive ends with WRs, TEs and RBs. One initial pop at the line of scrimmage can eliminate the quick first step and initial burst that get Gandy and Brown in trouble. Plus, the initlal contact on the DE from a teammate allows the tackle to fan back into a perfectly square setup in order to counter punch the next move. Sometimes that's all it takes.
Unfortunately, this was something Todd Haley was loath to do.
Will Whiz come up with the "chipping" wrinkles?
Kurt Warner and the team's fortunes may be depending on it.