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Look beyond the stars in Super Bowl

For the key to the Super Bowl, look beyond the hair.

The hair, of course, belongs to Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu – two of the biggest stars in the game.

Look instead to the folks in the trenches and Arizona’s runners. Super Bowl teams are more than their stars, even those whose personal idiosyncrasies, such as hair flying out below their helmets, make them stand out for more than their accomplishments.

Here are some others who could decide the winner when the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 1.

NT Casey Hampton, DE Aaron Smith, ILB James Farrior, Steelers

James Harrison is the defensive player of the year and combines with LaMarr Woodley to pile up sacks from the outside linebacker position.

But they are able to do it because opponents are constantly in passing situations. Credit Hampton, Smith, and Farrior, the lunchpail guys at the heart of Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense.

Hampton is generously listed at 325 pounds. When he reported to training camp last July, he was held out of drills after the Steelers said he was far over the weight he was supposed to report at.

“I ain’t got on the scale. I don’t really get on the scale, that’s not my thing,” Hampton said. “I play ball.”

When he finally got his weight down to something manageable, Hampton played ball, making it almost impossible to run against the Steelers.

Only five of Pittsburgh’s 16 regular-season opponents rushed for more than 100 yards and the Steelers allowed only 3.3 yards per rush. In two playoff games, San Diego and Baltimore have run for a total of 88 yards and an average of 2.4 per carry.

RBs Edgerrin James, Tim Hightower, J.J. Arrington, Cardinals

The Cardinals’ backs must provide at least a semblance of a running game to set up the most dangerous part of the Arizona offense: Kurt Warner throwing to Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston.

Even though the Cardinals’ rushing average in three postseason wins is just 3.3 yards, they’ve been effective enough to allow Warner to hook up with his receiving weapons, notably Fitzgerald, who has 419 yards receiving – already more than the record set in 1988 by Jerry Rice.

But the Cardinals have kept at it, which means opponents must be aware of the run – they have been over 100 yards on the ground twice in the playoffs.

Hightower, a rookie from Richmond who took James’ job midway through the season before giving it back, had just 33 yards on 11 carries Sunday. But he also had the 8-yard TD catch on a screen pass on the winning score.

Yes, double coverage on Fitzgerald opened the way. But it took a little-known rookie to make the play work.

Would it be any surprise if someone like that is the star of the Super Bowl?


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