Steelers Stay Hot in the Desert; Roll Past Cardinals 32-20

Three weeks ago when the Steelers were 2-2, a lot of people were ready to count the defending AFC Champs done for 2011.

Three weeks later, a red-hot offense, a reborn defense, and a number of unsung heroes playing for injured players have put the Steelers into a winning streak that has them right in the thick of the race in the AFC.

And it couldn’t come at a better time with the Steelers facing the New England Patriots and a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens in the next two weeks at home.

Sunday in Arizona, the Steelers winning ways continued, as Ben Roethlisberger threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns as the team rolled to a 32-20 decision over the Cardinals.

Roethlisberger played his best game of the year, completing 26-of-39 pass attempts, including a 95-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace that put the Steelers up 14-0.

Wallace caught three passes for 118 yards and Antonio Brown added seven grabs for 102 yards for the Steelers. The Cardinals had it to 17-14 in the third quarter, but a TD to Emmanuel Sanders, a safety, and a field goal pushed the lead to 29-14 in the fourth quarter.

Kevin Kolb went 18-for-34 through the air for 272 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the Cardinals’ fifth consecutive loss.

Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes for 78 yards, while LaRod Stephens-Howling racked up 76 yards and a score on two catches for Arizona, who is now 1-5.

Kolb was intercepted by Ryan Clark inside Arizona territory on the fourth play of the game and the Steelers used the favorable field position to take the early lead.

A 16-yard catch by Brown moved the ball into the Cardinals’ red zone before Roethlisberger found Heath Miller for a 12-yard touchdown less than five minutes into the opening quarter.

Each team then traded punts until the Steelers took over on offense at their own nine halfway through the second quarter. A false start penalty moved them back to the five, but Wallace hauled in a pass deep down the right sideline on the first play and outran two defenders on his way into the end zone for a 95-yard score.

It was the longest touchdown pass in Steelers history.

Arizona answered with a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive to make it a 14-7 game. After driving into Pittsburgh territory, an illegal contact penalty on the Steelers on an incomplete pass on third down kept the drive alive. A defensive holding penalty on another Kolb incomplete pass on third down kept the ball in the Cardinals’ hands and Alfonso Smith capped the drive with a one-yard run into the end zone.

Shaun Suisham’s 41-yard field goal as time expired gave Pittsburgh a 17-7 lead at the half.

Pittsburgh was forced to punt on its first possession of the second half and Arizona quickly made it a three-point game when Kolb hit Stephens-Howling on a short pass across the middle and the running back raced 73 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.

But the Steelers marched right down the field to cushion their lead again. Miller hauled in a 17-yard catch to move Pittsburgh across midfield and Brown’s one-handed grab at the sideline netted 13 yards before Roethlisberger hit Sanders in the back of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown.

Kolb’s intentional grounding penalty in his own end zone gave the Steelers a safety, and Suisham’s 42-yard field goal on the ensuing drive put Pittsburgh ahead 29-14 with 11:25 left in the game.

After Suisham split the uprights from 39 yards out, Arizona worked its way 71 yards down the field in 11 plays, resulting in Early Doucet’s two-yard TD catch. Kolb’s throw on the two-point conversion was too high and it sailed out of the end zone to make it a 32-20 game with just under four minutes remaining.

Arizona opted not to try an onside kick and Pittsburgh was able to run out the remainder of the clock to lock up the game.

For what could have been labeled as a “trap game,” the Steelers played as well as any game in 2011. They didn’t fall into the west coast trap, and their offense set the tone with a great effort.

Next week the Pats come to town, having another outstanding season at 5-1.

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3 Responses to “Steelers Stay Hot in the Desert; Roll Past Cardinals 32-20”

  1. Peter says:

    great win. Tough 2 week stretch coming up. Patriots coming off a bye is never a good thing. Ravens are just a good team and are going to be tough to beat.

  2. DrGeorge says:

    Let’s enjoy this victory. As Peter suggests, the celebrations may not last long.

    The media will focus on the final score today (32-20) and the stats (Steelers 445 total yards v. 330 yards for the Cards) and Ben’s passing (354 yards passing v. Kolb’s 257) — and they will conclude the 5-2 Steelers are an emerging team and that the 1-5 Cardinals aren’t very good. All of which is true, in so far as it goes.

    The sobering truth is that the Cards, with an inexperienced QB and only one competitive WR were in this game deep into the second half. The truth is the Steelers exploited the young and mediocre secondary of the Cards, but couldn’t run consistently or well against the defense front of the Cards. The truth is Redman and Moore were lightly used, and Arians had the aerial circus on display. Or to use last week’s metaphor, Dr. Jekyll stayed home, and Mr. Hyde ran the offense today. And on defense, we were vulnerable to both the run and the pass, as before.

    We may rejoice in the victory and the 95 yard bomb to Wallace. We can say we escaped the ‘trap game.’ But next week against the Patriots, we will not face an inexperienced secondary or an inexperienced QB. If we play the Pats the same way we played the Cards today, we will get our butts whipped. And the Ravens, who are even tougher than the Pats, are waiting the week after that. Both the Pats and the Ravens know the winning formula for beating Arians by now: ignore the Steelers nonexistent running game, stay deep to prevent the big play, and rush Ben hard. If we win one of those games, I will consider us fortunate. If we lose both of them, we will be 5-4 and hard pressed to make a wild card spot, even with our soft closing schedule after the bye week.

    As my colleagues here know, I am not much impressed by passing stats in this pass-happy era. The Cardinal victory has done nothing to assure me that the Steelers are on a par with the best in the league. As we all know, in this lock-out marred season, none of the NFL teams had the benefit of pre-season training and workouts; none of them are as good as they were last year. The NFL generally is selling an inferior product this year. But that demerit applies equally to all teams. Maybe the Steelers really are the best of an inferior lot. Maybe inferior play can triumph this year. We will soon find out.

    The next two weeks will demonstrate whether Bruce Arians has it right or not in featuring the aerial circus. Or whether the Steelers’ defense is really as good as its stats suggest. Given the difficulty we had with the lowly Cards today and the hapless Jaguars the week before that, I continue to have considerable doubts about both.

  3. mark says:

    I totally agree that this win does nothing to prove that this seasons Steelers are elite. However, being 5-2 and winning a few in a row can create a great deal of momentum going into what will be the biggest 3 weeks of this season. A split would be welcomed but with the team now focused on winning for Aaron Smith, maybe they can actually rise to the occasion? Besides, these two games are at home (although they can play the Patriots on Mars and it usually wont make a difference)and that just might serve as more of a weapon.If the team can run the ball,and avoid costly turnovers, I think they can exploit the Patriot defense. The problem with the Patriots will be OUR defense. If the Steelers can find themselves at 7-3 or 6-4 at worse at the bye,they will be right in the thick of things with the easier part of the schedule to come. 5-5 will most likely be a death blow to the season.

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