Last year I debuted my Super Bowl That Guy column, noting that there’s always some little-known player who rises to the occasion for the big game. Click to read last year’s column for some perspective.
To refresh your mind, here are the rules to qualify for That Guy status as we head into Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIII matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.
Rules to qualify as That Guy in a Super Bowl:
- Starting quarterbacks are automatically ruled out. That means no Kurt Warner and no Ben Roethlisberger.
- Pro Bowl selections are also overqualified. That means that, in addition to Warner, receievers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, safety Adrian Wilson and special teamer Sean Morey are ineligible for Arizona. For the Steelers, linebackers James Harrison and James Farrior and safety Troy Polamalu are off limits.
- Fantasy football studs are ineligible. This net catches several players already ruled out. Add to those names: Willie Parker, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.
- Veterans with a significant playoff history. Deshea Townsend and Aaron Smith each have at least 10 years of experience and a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers already. They’re exempt. On the Arizona side, there’s a lot less playoff experience, but Edgerrin James definitely qualifies.
- No repeats. If you were already named That Guy in a Super Bowl, you can never be him again. The Steelers’ That Guy from Super Bowl XL, Antwaan Randle-El, is no longer with the team. No one on either team has ever been That Guy before.
Arizona Cardinals top five nominees for Super Bowl XLIII That Guy
5. Mike Gandy, LT
Protecting Kurt Warner will be a key to the Cardinals’ success. Gandy is in charge of protecting Warner’s blindside against the Steelers’ rush that will feature NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.
4. Matt Leinart, QB
The one-time golden boy has been relegated to the bench, but if Gandy and company fail to protect Warner, the Heisman-trophy winner Leinart will be called upon. Warner has managed to stay healthy this season, so there’s no indication that he’ll go down. But the Steelers’ defense is the best and arguably hardest hitting in the league. What a chance that would be for someone who was once the guy at USC to become That Guy in the Super Bowl.
3. Bertrand Berry, DE
The 11-year veteran had played in just two playoff games prior to this season, losing both. But after starting just four games during the season, he’s started in all three Cardinals playoff victories this year and recorded two sacks. He knows that Super Bowl opportunities do not come around regularly and that should motivate him to get some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger.
2. Tim Hightower, RB
After scoring six touchdowns in a reserve role, the rookie runner started seven of the team’s final nine regular season games, but he scored just four times as a starter. Nonetheless, he remains an important complement to Edgerrin James and will need to contribute if the Cardinals have any hopes of mounting a rushing attack against the Steelers’ vaunted run defense.
1. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB
In his first postseason run, the rookie corner has been stellar, tallying 15 tackles and two interceptions during Arizona’s playoff run. Whether he’s matched up against Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward or deep-threat Santonio Holmes, Rodgers-Cromartie is going to be tested by the Steelers receivers. If he can win his share of those battles, the Cardinals just might win the war.
Pittsburgh Steelers top five nominees for Super Bowl XLIII That Guy
5. Dennis Dixon, QB
This is the ultimate long-shot, but hear me out. The Steelers always seem to know when to run the trick play. They ran one to perfection in Super Bowl XL when wide receiver Antwaan Randle-El hooked up on a touchdown pass to fellow wideout Hines Ward. Who was the offensive coordinator then? Ken Whisenhunt, now head coach of the Cardinals. Wouldn’t the Steelers love to kill the Cards coach with a dose of his own medicine? And, if so, Dixon, the athletic rookie from Oregon could figure prominently. If he gets onto the field, keep an eye on him.
*4. Limas Sweed, WR
The rookie wideout is my brother Mike’s pick, so I’ll list him, but after his drop last week against the Ravens, I just don’t see it happening for Sweed. To hear more of Mike’s thoughts on the game, check out the first episode of The Winning Hand Sportscast available for download or streamed on MattHubert.com
3. LaMarr Woodley, LB
The third-year linebacker from Michigan is also the third-ranking linebacker for the Steelers, but that’s only because he plays alongside the best linebacking crew in the NFL with James Harrison and James Farrior. The young’n of the bunch, Woodley is every bit as capable of making big plays, and with the attention the others demand, he may find himself free to make some of those plays against the Cardinals.
2. Heath Miller, TE
He’s not Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates, but Miller fits the mold of a Pittsburgh Steelers tight end. He’s a big body, great blocker and, next to Hines Ward, seems to be Roethlisberger’s go-to target on third down. Tight end is a position not being talked about much in this game, but Miller has the edge and that could pay dividends for the Steelers.
1. Mewelde Moore, RB
When Willie Parker was injured earlier this year, Moore was more than a serviceable fill-in. In the four games he started, Moore averaged 20 carries for 90 yards (4.5 yards/carry) with three rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown. Parker broke through with a big effort in the Steelers’ last Super Bowl while playing somewhat in the shadow of Jerome Bettis. Parker doesn’t cast quite as large a shadow as The Bus did, but Moore will look to follow in his footsteps.
My Pick for Super Bowl XLIII That Guy
Steve Breaston, WR/returner, Arizona
The Cardinals are a pass-first offense. Their quarterback and both starting receivers are Pro Bowl starters. Surely the Steelers will do everything they can to limit the number of passes directed toward Fitzgerald and Boldin. Naturally that leads to additional opportunities for the number three man, Steve Breaston. His numbers for the year: 77 receptions, 1,006 yards and 3 touchdowns. Not too shabby. And that doesn’t even factor in his electrifying ability as a kick/punt return specialist, which is where he really made his mark in college at Michigan. As a multi-dimensional weapon, Breaston is a leading threat to take That Guy honors on Sunday.
Matt’s Super Bowl XLIII pick
Arizona 24, Pittsburgh 20