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Monday, January 26, 2009
Around the NFC West: Containing Big Ben

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the matchup between the Cardinals' defensive line and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

John Faherty of the Arizona Republic credits Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt for changing the team's culture. Whisenhunt said it's just a matter of changing expectations.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic sizes up the relationship between Kurt Warner and the Cardinals' receivers. Warner's appreciation for Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin developed over time.

Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic asks former Eagles assistant Mark Whipple for a Super Bowl prediction. Whipple, who has reportedly taken a job at the University of Miami, doesn't bite.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Cardinals general manager Rod Graves experienced a delayed emotional reaction to winning the NFC title.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune says Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith is playing his best. Coaches and teammates describe Smith as a hard worker.

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says Steelers fans have extra incentive -- cold weather in Pittsburgh -- to descend upon Tampa for the Super Bowl. 

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Neil Rackers' rise from St. Louis-area high school player to Super Bowl kicker for the Cardinals.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks plan to become more of a run-oriented team. Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett can expert their roles to increase.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks can't have it both ways on the character issue. General manager Tim Ruskell has repeatedly talked about enforcing high standards for off-field conduct, but his roster features numerous players with rap sheets. And if the team re-signs the recently arrested Leroy Hill? McGrath: "If Leroy Hill isn't told that he's no longer wanted in Seattle, then Tim Ruskell needs to stop talking about character. If the behavior of a potential draft choice raises red flags, pick somebody else. Just don't tout the guy you do get for sainthood. Don't even go there."

Doug Farrar of Field Gulls looks at three players the Seahawks met with at the Senior Bowl. He likes Ohio State receiver Brian Robiskie.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have multiple options in the draft. Thomas: "With left tackle Orlando Pace's great career winding down and right tackle Alex Barron completing another so-so season, you could make a case that offensive tackle is the Rams' greatest need."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles new Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. Burwell: "Steve Spagnuolo has more in common with Dick Vermeil than a shared legacy as passionate coaching workaholic in charge of leading the Rams out of another dark tunnel."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says he has no idea what the 49ers have in store as they continue to search for an offensive coordinator.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee can't envision the 49ers moving Nate Clements to safety, even though the team could use an upgrade at the position.

Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury News looks into the prospects of the 49ers and Raiders sharing a stadium. Such talk is in its early stages.