The turns the Cardinals, Steelers have taken since Super Bowl XLIII
It has only been two years since Super Bowl XLIII where the Arizona Cardinals almost became champions until Santonio Holmes made a tip-toe catch (allegedly) in the end zone to crown the Pittsburgh Steelers once again.
It seems like much longer ago as the two franchises have rode a roller coaster of ups and downs.
Pittsburgh suffered through the dreaded Super Bowl hangover in 2009. They posted a winning record of 9-7, but failed to make the playoffs for the first time in the Mike Tomlin era.
The team struggled during a five-game losing streak during the season that included embarrassing losses to Cleveland, Oakland and Kansas City.
The Steelers also dealt with the off-field problems of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who was accused in two different sexual assault cases.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, came back from their Super Bowl defeat and stormed to another NFC West Division title and their best record (10-6) since moving to Arizona. They made only their third trip to the playoffs in their time in the desert.
The Cardinals pulled out an overtime thriller 51-45 against the Green Bay Packers before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champ New Orleans Saints 45-14 in a game where Kurt Warner took a beating.
The teams reversed roles though in 2010 as it would be the Cardinals who suffered through a disastrous season while the Steelers are currently one win away from playing for another championship.
The Cardinals were left scrambling for a quarterback when Kurt Warner decided to retire in the off-season and the team felt that Matt Leinart was finally ready to assume the mantle as the team’s starting quarterback.
The decision proved costly as Leinart struggled during training camp and into the preseason before coach Whisenhunt finally cut ties with the team’s former first-rounder. Whisenhunt then turned over the team to the journeyman Derek Anderson who predictably struggled to accomplish much as the Cardinals finished in last place in 2010 with a 5-11 record.
The Steelers, on the other hand, entered the season without Roethlisberger for the first four games due to his suspension by the NFL for his off-field legal issues.
However, the team was able to go a remarkable 3-1 during his absence playing the young Dennis Dixon and the graybeard Charlie Batch at quarterback.
When Big Ben returned, it was almost like he had never been gone as the team raced to a 12-4 record, won their division and secured a first round bye.
Pittsburgh was able to squeak past the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round and hold off the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game.
Hard to predict what will happen to the Steelers in Super Bowl XXXLV, but the similarities these franchises have faced over the last two years can be traced to one position: quarterback.
Going forward the Steelers will be primed to stay on top while the Cardinals may continue to face hard times for a simple reason.
The Steelers have a quarterback to build around as their foundation while the Cardinals will be floundering until they can find that next great quarterback to take them back to the top.