The Steelers defeated the ex-Steelers, oops, I mean the Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 32-20 and now must prepare for the toughest three game stretch of the season. After appearing in the 2009 Super Bowl, the Cardinals have fallen on hard times. The Sunday loss was their fifth straight.
Despite a penalty filled game, 12 total, the Steelers offense and defense looked almost impressive, but this was the same team that was blown out by the lowly Minnesota Vikings.
Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace hooked up for the longest pass play in franchise history, a beautiful 95-yard connection that started the Steelers on their way to what was a fairly easy victory. Roethlisberger, who went 25-of-38 passing for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns, also had TD tosses of 12 yards to Heath Miller and 4 yards to Emmanuel Sanders in the first game between the teams since Pittsburgh’s 27-23 thriller over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII.
Kevin Kolb threw two touchdown passes, his first in three games, for Arizona (1-5), but he missed several open receivers and, with a blitzing LaMarr Woodley in his face, drew an intentional grounding call in the Cardinals’ end zone for a Pittsburgh safety. He also set up the Steelers first score with an interception on the first play of the game.
The Cardinals held the Steelers running game in check. Rashard Mendenhall had only 32 yards on 13 carries and Isaac Redman 29 on 6 carries. Antonio Brown is getting better with each game as he and Wallace both had more than 100 yards receiving. He had 7 catches for 102 yards and Wallace 3 for 118.
Larry Fitzgerald, the best receiver in football, had 78 yards on just 4 catches as Ike Taylor was in his jersey all game long.
Coach Mike Tomlin on the game after the game: “It’s great to put together a winning performance on the road. It’s something we hadn’t done definitively to this point. I like our efforts on all three phases. We made the necessary plays. We had some signature splash plays on defense. We made critical third down conversions on offense in the second half, things we didn’t do a week ago. All positive signs. Largely we are pleased to come into a venue like this and get a ‘W’ and move on. From an injury standpoint we are pretty clean. Hines (Ward) had an ankle and was unable to return. We’ll see as the week goes on. You know Hines always finds a way to defy logic when it comes to injury and so forth. We will definitely leave a seat on the bus for him. We’ll see where next week takes us.”
On Roethlisberger’s performance “He was very good. The thing I like he did was, of course he did his usual as far as buying time and creating plays, I like the way he utilized the backs as plays broke down. I thought that was an opportunity for us. I thought they had some critical conversions and nice plays, positive plays, just dumping the ball to 33 (Isaac Redman) or 34 (Rashard Mendenhall) or 21 (Mewelde Moore). I liked that.”
On the young receivers. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown: “Those guys did that last year. We don’t view them as young guys anymore. They have to deliver plays for us. I think they understand that. I think they embrace that.”
The Steelers (5-2) won their third in a row and improved to 2-2 on the road. Now they must face their toughest three foes of the season. The first is the New England Patriots (5-1) at Heinz Field this Sunday at 4:15. The Patriots behind Tom Brady are currently the best team in the AFC. But their defense is questionable, so they can be beaten.
The Baltimore Ravens (4-1) are probably the second best team in the AFC and played the Jacksonville Jaguars Monday night after Courier deadline. They have the second best defense in the AFC but their offense is still in question. The Steelers face them the following week Nov. 6 at 8:20 p.m. on NBC Sunday Night Football. Then it’s the surprising Cincinnati Bengals (4-2), who they will face on the road.
If the Steelers win all three they are in the AFC drivers’ seat at 8-2. However, if they split 2-1, they are still in good shape at 7-3. They really need the victory over the Ravens, because they are in the same division, which would give them a split. However, if they lose, they lose the tie breaker in the playoffs because they would have lost both divisional games. The same is true of the Patriots if they finish with the same record.
The Bengals have been a big surprise, and could serve as a spoiler this season, but right now they are as much in the race as the Steelers.
If the Ravens beat the Jaguars they will remain on top of the AFC North Division with a 5-1 record, if not they drop to a tie with the Steelers at 5-2. The Bengals are in third and the Cleveland Browns (3-3) remain in the cellar despite a 6-3 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.