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Cardinals vs. Steelers preview: Despite Bruce Arians downplaying it, matchup against former team is more than just a game for many

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Only the head coaches are downplaying the emotional matchup.

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The story has been told many times. It is being hashed and rehashed. Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is going back to Pittsburgh as a head coach for the first time since he was let go by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. At the time, it was said Arians was retiring. He now jokes that he was "refired," as retiring was not what he wanted to do.

We know the rest of the story, as he went on to become the offensive coordinator for the Colts and then interim head coach when Chuck Pagano was getting treatment for cancer. That showing led to his becoming head coach of the Cardinals.

If you want to get something from Arians about whether this game is bigger than others for him, you won't. He said it is a big game "because it is the next one." He also downplays the return to Pittsburgh because it isn't even the first time he has been there since the firing.

"I came back for a preseason game the year after I left with Indianapolis," he explained. "So, I've been in that visitors' locker room a number of times. It won't be totally new to me."

But he hasn't been a head coach on the visiting sideline in PIttsburgh.

Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin also downplayed the reunion. "I'm sure this isn't the first time that he's traveled back to a city where he's worked," he said. "If he said it, I believe it. I believe that's his perspective." He also noted earlier in the week how the NFL is such a small fraternity, there is almost always someone on staff on a team that has connections with the opposing team.

While the coaches downplay it, the players are not.

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, drafted when Arians was the OC in Pittsburgh, doesn't believe it when Arians says it's just another game. "Knowing him and how competitive he is, I'm sure he's going to want to come in here and put on a show; seeing how many people counted him out and wanted him out of here," he said.

Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter says his coach isn't saying it, but he can feel a difference. It's not just Arians, though.

"It's (inside linebackers coach Larry) Foote," Minter said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "We got Brenston Buckner as our defensive line coach. We got LaMarr Woodley. We're pretty much the Arizona Steelers."

Minter said there is extra focus "because it's homecoming for a lot of these guys."

"It's more of a feeling," he explained. "Everybody's a little tighter this week, a little bit more on edge." And Arians doesn't have to say anything, "It's in his actions."

Does that mean the Cardinals need to go out and win for Arians? No. The need to win because it is the biggest matchup they have had yet. It would be disappointing to lose.

But is it just another game? If you mean just another game where one coach had fired the other one and it is the first time both face off as head coaches, then yes.