The Steelers held serve on Sunday in Arizona, setting up a pretty big two weeks in Pittsburgh.
They improved to 5-2 with a convincing 32-20 win over the Cardinals, which means they’ll be hosting the Patriots and Ravens in the next two weeks with a chance to make a case for themselves as the best team in the AFC. They were in control of the game against the Cardinals most of the way, but they really ended the game after the Cardinals scored a touchdown in the third quarter to cut the Steelers lead to 17-14. Ben Roethlisberger completed six-of-seven passes for 80 yards on the next drive, capping the possession with a four-yard touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders.
They followed that up by forcing Kevin Kolb into a safety when he tried to throw the ball away against a fierce rush in his own end zone on the first play of the next drive. Kolb was flagged for intentional grounding, giving the Steelers two points and the ball. They held the ball for seven minutes before a Shuan Suisham field goal extended their lead to 15 points and it was pretty academic from there. You could quibble about the Steelers’ offensive choices after going up 26-14 because they didn’t score any more touchdowns, but the results look pretty good.
Roethlisberger threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns without turning the ball over. Mike Wallace set a Steelers record with a 95-yard touchdown, the 13th time he’s caught a score from Roethlisberger in the last 19 games, and joined Antonio Brown with more than 100 receiving yards. It has gotten to the point where teams single-cover Wallace at their own peril because there aren’t many corners who can run up the field with him well enough to ensure you don’t give up a quick six points. The running game never really got going, although it is hard to fault any team for putting the ball up in the air as much as possible against a very poor Cardinals secondary.
Kolb led a nice drive to draw the Cards back within 12 at the end, but that was a pretty cosmetic attempt to put polish on another poor performance. He threw a pick, struggled to make plays under pressure and couldn’t sustain drives long enough to make a real impact on the scoreboard. That doesn’t bode well for next week’s game against the Ravens defense and Kolb isn’t filling anyone with confidence that the Cardinals made the right long-term decision for the franchise.
All in all, this was the best the Steelers have looked since Week Two’s shutout of the Seahawks. They have a big jump in competition coming their way, but two straight wins will mean that no one will be talking about their sluggish start to the 2011 season.