LeBeau vs. Whiz

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

TAMPA, Fla. -- Dick LeBeau and Ken Whisenhunt are former co-workers who had a lot of intense battles on the golf course, although LeBeau wouldn't divulge who had the upper hand.

"Modesty prevents me from saying," LeBeau said with a sly grin. "You'd have to ask Kenny."

On Sunday, only one of these minds can be superior, as LeBeau will lead his Pittsburgh Steelers defense against the Arizona Cardinals head coach and his high-powered offense in Super Bowl XLIII. Whisenhunt and LeBeau were offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, when the Steelers last won the Super Bowl following the 2005 season.

LeBeau Whisenhunt
"I think it's a wash, because anything I would know about coach Whisenhunt he would know about me and vice versa," LeBeau said. "We're going to try like heck to get one up on each other just like we were on the golf course. But it's going to come down to how our players play. I know he'll have some good stuff for us."

One of the big story lines this week is how much Whisenhunt knows the Steelers' players and coaches and how much of an impact it will have in this game. Whisenhunt has downplayed the notion all week, but the advantage is undeniable. It's just a matter of to what degree.

"It's been two years since we were with this team," Whisenhunt said. "With anything, they've had a number of personnel changes, they've had a number of scheme changes. So I don't think it really has any bearing on this game."

On the field, the biggest challenge for LeBeau will be Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald. LeBeau has drawn up schemes to stop top-flight receivers all season, but none were hotter that Fitzgerald.

"You know how they say in basketball that he plays taller than he is? Well, this guy is like 7-foot tall at the ball," LeBeau said. "They just throw it up to him. They don't care if he's covered or not. They've been rewarded for it because he usually comes down with it. He's a great player."

Pittsburgh's top cornerback, Ike Taylor, likely will be shadowing Fitzgerald in the Super Bowl. Taylor has played at a high level all season, but LeBeau joked that his corner may need an extra boost against Fitzgerald.

"We're working on a shorter step ladder for Ike to carry around with him to see if he can get up a little bit higher," LeBeau said. "But our corners will all have to do a good job at the ball, because I'm sure they're going to be tested. I think our numbers say that our corners have done a good job for several years. But we haven't played against this guy, that's for sure."

The familiar coach matchup between LeBeau and Whisenhunt/offensive coordinator Todd Haley will be a major factor in determining the outcome of this game.

Despite the friendship between LeBeau and Whisenhunt, it will be intense -- just like it was on the golf course.