GERRY DULAC grades the Steelers' effort in the 21-14 loss to the Cardinals yesterday. The report is broken down into defensive and offensive positions and coaching.
Ben Roethlisberger offset two big touchdown passes to Santonio Holmes with poor decisions, poor throws and two interceptions. He completed only 2 of 10 passes to start the second half and tried to force one to tight end Heath Miller that was intercepted in the end zone, costing the Steelers a field goal with the score tied, 7-7. The 92-yard scoring drive with 1:49 remaining was impressive, but too late.
Running backs: D
After rushing for more than 100 yards in his past four games, Willie Parker managed just 37 yards on 19 carries, and that was with a 20-yard run. The Steelers finished with 77 yards on 26 attempts, but that was because Roethlisberger rushed for 26 yards, including a 16-yard scramble.
With Hines Ward (knee) not playing, Holmes stepped up and made several big plays in the first half, holding on to a first-down pass after a big hit and also beating CB Eric Green for a 43-yard touchdown. He finished with six catches for 128 yards and also added a 7-yard touchdown. But Nate Washington couldn't get open and where, oh where, was Cedrick Wilson?
Offensive line: D
The unit that was so effective the first three games was disappointing against Arizona. The line had four false-start penalties -- one by everyone but C Sean Mahan -- and did not give Roethlisberger a lot of time to throw, especially in the first half when he was sacked three times. Their inability to create movement for the running game was a big reason for the defeat.
Defensive line: C+
RB Edgerrin James finished with 77 yards on 21 carries -- most by a back against the Steelers this season -- but his longest run was 9 yards. DE Brett Keisel did a good job applying pressure in a three-man rush and hurried QB Kurt Warner into bad passes in the no-huddle. He also deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage. DE Aaron Smith had one of the two sacks.
It's never a good sign when ILB James Farrior finishes with only three tackles. There wasn't enough pressure of quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Warner. Clark Haggans got the only sack from the group. James Harrison recovered a fumble at the Arizona 4 but also dropped an easy interception.
It wasn't as bad as it looked, considering three of the secondary's top five players got injured. Larry Fitzgerald caught 11 passes, but the one that really hurt was a 38-yarder over Ike Taylor that led to the final TD. Taylor also had a senseless 15-yard taunting penalty on the first touchdown drive. Troy Polamalu did not play in the second half (abdominal strain).
Special teams: F
Mistakes by young players really hurt, none bigger than when Carey Davis was ruled to be ineligible downfield on a punt and Steve Breaston returned the second punt 73 yards for a touchdown. Rookie LaMarr Woodley had a 10-yard holding penalty on a punt return, pushing a possession back to their own 24.
Too many penalties (11), including four false starts and four on special teams, and a few questionable decisions helped contribute to Mike Tomlin's first loss. Even though they converted, the decision to go on fourth-and-1 at their 29 in the second quarter was risky because the Steelers were leading, 7-0. On top of it all, they were beaten on a play by their former special teams coach.
First Published October 1, 2007 4:00 AM