Steelers race past Arizona, 32-20
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks to throw Sunday against the Cardinals. He completed 26 of 39 passes for 361 yards and his highest passer rating this season -- 121.8.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hit as he attempts to pass in the fourth quarter.
Ben Roethlisberger is all smiles after throwing touchdown pass to Mike Wallace in the first half Sunday against the Cardinals.
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- This is the kind of game it was for the Steelers: That longest pass play in franchise history, Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace for 95 yards? It was supposed to be a dumpy little pass to tight end David Johnson to jump-start a drive.
Roethlisberger said it was "kind of designed to throw the ball to DJ in the flat, 3-4-5 yards to get some momentum back. But I took a peek at Mike and he was running inside that corner, so it was game over."
Not quite, but it put them on the road to their third consecutive victory, 32-20, against the Arizona Cardinals, and brings them home at 5-2 to play perhaps their most important two games left on the schedule, New England Sunday and Baltimore Nov. 6.
For the second game in a row, the Steelers built a significant lead over a weak opponent (the Cardinals lost their fifth consecutive game to drop to 1-5) only to see them nearly catch up. This one, though, did not end with a desperation pass falling incomplete against them into the end zone. It never got that close.
The touchdown pass to Wallace followed another of 12 yards to Heath Miller as the Steelers ran out to a 14-0 lead. Arizona had shaved their lead to 17-14 in the third quarter when former Pitt running back LaRod Stephens-Howling completed a big play of his own, a 73-yard reception from Kevin Kolb.
That's when Roethlisberger pretty much did say game over. He gathered his offense after that play and said he told them, "Listen guys, they're going to have a spark. Let's answer it and do what we do."
He proceeded to complete 6 of 8 passes for 80 yards on an 11-play, 80-yard drive. On the final play, he eluded a pass rush, Emmanuel Sanders broke off his route to leave a defender flat-footed and caught a 4-yard pass all alone in the end zone.
It was Rotethlisberger's third touchdown pass of his best day of 2011. He completed 26 of 39 of them for 361 yards and his highest passer rating this season -- 121.8. Eight different receivers caught those passes including two who topped 100 yards -- Wallace had 3 for 118 and Antonio Brown had his best game in his two seasons with 7 for 102.
Also, Sanders caught 5 for 46 and Miller 4 for 59 on a day in which the running game produced only 91 yards and a 3.3-yard average.
"It's just fun to get everyone involved," Roethlisberger said. "A lot of guys caught balls [Sunday]. That's always fun for me. I enjoy targeting a lot of guys and them getting the balls.
"Making a guy miss and Emmanuel being on the same page as you and scrambling back, it's exciting."
It didn't all come on offense, either. LaMarr Woodley had two more sacks -- 51/2 of his 7 have come in the past three games -- and forced a safety, the first by the Steelers in three seasons. Ryan Clark intercepted a Kolb pass on the first series of the game, a pass tipped by James Farrior, and that set up their first touchdown drive of 31 yards.
"If we want to be great we've got to get those plays," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We've got to get turnovers. We haven't had many up to this point."
That interception was the only turnover of the game for either side.
"The turnovers are going to come," Keisel said. "And it goes hand in hand with the offense holding onto the ball. They did a great job with no turnovers. It all works together in the grand scheme of things."
Besides an interception and safety, the Steelers held Beanie Wells (12 carries, 42 yards) and the Cardinals runners in check with just 73 yards on 19 carries. That's something they've had trouble doing at times this season.
They also built their lead to 32-14 when Shaun Suisham kicked two of his three field goals, before the Cardinals scored a touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Kolb to Early Doucet with 3:53 to go.
Arizona attempted a 2-point conversion, failed and then somewhat surprisingly did not try an onsides kick, booting it instead into the end zone. It was the final time the Cardinals touched the ball as Roethlisberger and the offense picked up four first downs on their final, clock-killing drive.
"We went out there and closed the game out," Woodley said. "That was the important thing."
First Published October 24, 2011 12:00 am