GLENDALE, Ariz. - Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says the game seems "eons" ago.
Pittsburgh beat Arizona, 27-23, in one of the most thrilling Super Bowls of all time. The teams meet today for the first time since that matchup, a nice story line but insignificant as far as those involved are concerned.
"You move on," Tomlin said. "I think everybody needs to have that approach, whether you're talking about football or life in general. I think the greater thing is the challenges that lie ahead."
The Steelers (4-2) have been shaky on the road, going 1-2 with the only victory a 23-20 squeaker at winless Indianapolis. The Cardinals (1-4) need to beat somebody - period.
An Arizona loss this afternoon would be its fifth straight and would leave the team 1-5 heading into a game at Baltimore, the first in a stretch of four of five on the road.
The Cardinals have lost 10 straight road games going back to last season's opener.
Smith done for year
The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Saturday they have placed veteran defensive end Aaron Smith on the team's Reserve/Injured List.
This marks the third time in Smith's 13-year career he has been placed on the Reserve/Injured List (2007, 2009). For his career, he has started 152 games and has posted 44 sacks, which ranks 10th on the team's all-time list.
The Steelers filled Smith's spot by signing rookie free agent defensive end Corbin Bryant to the active roster. Bryant has spent the season on the Steelers' practice squad.
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt agrees that the 2009 Super Bowl seems a long time ago, but the fact that the Cardinals made it - and went back to the playoffs the following season - is reason for hope through these difficult days.
"It was a good run for us," he said. "I think that's what makes us so confident that what we are doing is the right thing, as far as how we prepare and how we work and that if we stay the course, we'll come out of this thing. This is a good football team."
Whisenhunt once thought he had brought the team out of its long history of losing for good, but the Cardinals are 6-15 since Kurt Warner retired and the transfer of controls to Kevin Kolb this year has not been as smooth as hoped. In the past three games, Kolb has thrown one touchdown pass and been intercepted five times.
"I think it's just a matter of you work every day to get comfortable with the system, get comfortable with the guys around you," offensive coordinator Larry Miller said. "You'd like to be able to say, 'Hey, that should have happened already,' but sometimes things take a little more time than others."
With fans already wondering if he is worth the big money the Cardinals spent on his long-term contract, Kolb has had an extra week to prepare for the Steelers. He reminds himself that three of Arizona's losses came by a combined eight points.
"Getting away and realizing that I am right where I need to be and I want to be and make sure that we keep realizing the opportunities, as a team and as a unit," he said at his weekly session with reporters.
"I told you all this before, we love the group here. We love the coaching staff, obviously love this city and this place, and we all want it to remain that way. The only way you do that is by winning."
Six of Arizona's coaches, including Whisenhunt, were with the Steelers at one time or another. The most recent addition is defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Dick LeBeau's defensive backs coach before he came to the Cardinals this season.
While the Cardinals have slid back to the bottom rungs of the league, the Steelers have remained, well, the Steelers. The reigning AFC champions have a winning record despite a multitude of injuries, particularly on the offensive line.
They could get one of those players, left guard Chris Kemoeatu, back on Sunday. He has missed three games overall and the past two with a knee injury.
Despite their record, the Steelers aren't at all satisfied with their overall performance, especially on offense.
"We've got a ways to go, which I guess is good," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "I don't think you want to be running on all cylinders right now, but we make mistakes here and there. We'll play a couple of good quarters, maybe a half, but we just have to put the full game together.
Pittsburgh scored on its first three possessions against Jacksonville last week to take a 17-0 lead, but had to hold on to win 17-13.
"We're a 4-2 football team," Tomlin said. "We're starting to put some things together from a rhythm standpoint. Hopefully that makes us a team on the rise. We acknowledge that we're far from perfect, but I like the attitude and approach that the guys are brining daily in terms of getting better."
Defensively, Pittsburgh leads the league in fewest yards allowed and several other categories, and the team got some good news when safety Troy Polamalu was cleared to play after passing a concussion test after he was injured late in the game against the Jaguars.
But Tomlin isn't happy that his team has just four takeaways and is minus-8 in turnovers.
"I think we've lacked the signature plays, the splash plays that define our team," he said. "Obviously, we're doing OK. I think we're number one in defense. We're doing enough to win."
While slowing running back Rashard Mendenhall is the Arizona defense's No. 1 concern, in the end it probably will come down to dealing with Roethlisberger, who has thrown for more than 200 yards in 14 consecutive games.
"You have to just swarm tackle him," defensive end Calais Campbell said.
"You've got to get to him, hold on to him. You can't just try to run through him because he's elusive - grab him, hold on to him as tight as you can. I think I could probably get him down by myself but some of our defensive backs might need some help. He's like a D-end playing quarterback."