Steelers Report Card: Game 7 vs. Cardinals

Steelers 32, Cardinals 20

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Not only did Ben Roethlisberger pass for 361 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, he spread the production among four receivers. But he saved his best for when the Cardinals cut the lead to 17-14, completing six of eight passes for 80 yards and finishing the drive with a 4-yard TD to Emmanuel Sanders in which he eluded the pressure. His 121.8 passer rating was his best of the season.


One week after he rushed for 146 yards, Rashard Mendenhall had just 32 yards on 13 carries. After rushing for 359 yards in the past two games, the Steelers finished with 91 on 28 attempts, an average of 3.3 yards per attempt. And 27 of those yards came on the final series. Isaac Redman had the longest run (14 yards) and Mewelde Moore carried three times for 15 yards on a drive to set up a field goal.


Four players had big games, including Antonio Brown, who had career highs with seven catches and 102 yards. Mike Wallace caught only one pass in the first half: A 95-yard TD on the same play call in which he dropped an earlier attempt. TE Heath Miller had four catches and sneaked off the line for a wide-open 12-yard TD. And Sanders had five catches -- three on the drive that ended with his 4-yard TD catch.


This was the seventh game in a row with a different starting line combination, and, at times, it showed. The running game was stagnant, averaging just 3.3 yards per rush, but Roethlisberger was not sacked until the third quarter. G Chris Kemoeatu was playing because of injuries and probably shouldn't have been: He took a pair of typical personal-foul penalties and couldn't move fast enough to prevent a sack.


The unit was minus two starters and its top backup nose tackle, but NT Steve McLendon made several big stops in his first start. The Cardinals finished with 73 yards rushing on 19 attempts, but they also had three runs of 10 yards or longer. All in all, the defense did a good job stopping RB Beanie Wells, holding him to 42 yards on 12 carries before he departed in the second quarter with an ankle sprain.


LaMarr Woodley continued his recent tear with two sacks, giving him 5 1/2 in three games since James Harrison has been sidelined. And he also had a safety when he forced an intentional grounding in the end zone. After no tackles last week, OLB Lawrence Timmons pressured QB Kevin Kolb into an interception that led to the first touchdown. James Farrior deflected that pass, one of two he had against Kolb.


Ryan Clark's interception off a deflected pass on the first series set up the first TD -- always a big momentum-changer on the road. Sure, Kolb passed for 272 yards and a short pass turned into a 73-yard TD, but he was never able to get Larry Fitzgerald involved in the game. Credit goes to Ike Taylor, even though he had a bad first half in which he had two third-down penalties that kept alive a Cardinals TD drive.


p>No breakdowns, no bad decisions, not even a bad penalty. Antonio Brown had punt returns of 31 and 16 yards, P Daniel Sepulveda downed two inside the 20 and Shaun Suisham was perfect on three field goal attempts, including two beyond 40 yards. And the kick-coverage unit allowed an average of 21.4 yards on five returns, meaning the Cardinals started four drives at the 7, 13, 13 and 29.


It was a complete effort, starting with an offense that never stopped attacking, especially on the road. The defense came up with a big turnover on the first series to help start the momentum and kept enough pressure on Kolb to force a number of bad throws. The Steelers did not need a bad performance heading into games against New England and Baltimore. Instead, they delivered one of their better ones.


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