Steelers prepare for 'Fitz'


Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

PITTSBURGH -- Very few people want to trade places right now with a cornerback from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For the next eight days, it will be the job of starters Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden to figure out a way to shutdown Arizona Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald -- a task that no one has accomplished this postseason.

The Atlanta Falcons cornerbacks were overwhelmed, giving up 101 receiving yards and a 42-yard touchdown reception to Fitzgerald in the wild-card round.

The Carolina Panthers couldn't contain Fitzgerald, who had eight catches for 166 yards and a score in the divisional round.

And even Philadelphia Eagles corner Asante Samuel, arguably the best at his position, was part of a secondary that allowed three Fitzgerald touchdowns in the first half of the NFC Championship Game.

Next up in Super Bowl XLIII, Pittsburgh's secondary and top-rated defense will try to slow Fitzgerald.

"Fitzgerald brings something different to the table," Taylor said. "His jump-ball skills and hand-eye coordination are unbelievable right now."

Taylor, Pittsburgh's top corner. has done a good job against other top flight receivers this season. He's played well against players such as Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and the Steelers were No. 1 against the pass in the regular season.

But Fitzgerald could be the toughest assignment to date. He is on a historic postseason run and is quickly entering the conversation as the best receiver in the league.

"NFL receivers can all catch the ball," longtime Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "They can all run. Most have great hand-eye [coordination]. But this guy is kind of special."

The ability -- or inability -- to contain Fitzgerald will have a major impact on the outcome of this game. But the Steelers also say don't forget about Fitzgerald's teammates, namely Anquan Boldin.

Lost in the breakout postseason of Fitzgerald is the always dangerous Boldin, who is a two-time Pro Bowler and has four career 1,000-yard seasons. The pair combined for 2,469 receiving yards on their way to leading the Cardinals to an NFC West title. It's just now that a nationwide audience gets to see the tremendous game-breaking ability and highlight-reel catches both players consistently provide.

"It seems like they both have vacuums at the end of their wrists," McFadden said after studying tape intensively this week. "Whenever the ball comes to their area, they bring it in no matter how difficult the catch may look."

McFadden is very familiar with Boldin. The two were college teammates at Florida State and shared many battles on the practice field. McFadden said he looks forward to continuing their rivalry on football's biggest stage.

"He's a guy who was always intense when we faced each other in college," McFadden said. "He always plays at a high level and practices at a high level. That's something we really respected, because he would go out and do the same thing on Saturdays."