Mistakes Ruin Steelers' Unbeaten Start In 21-14 Loss At Arizona
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Tuesday, October 02, 2007
By Eddie Griffin
Steelers Fever Columnist
All it took was a fourth quarter and a resurgent Kurt Warner to undo an unbeaten start.
Several key second-half mistakes also spelled desert doom for the Steelers, as the Kurt Warner-led Cardinals knocked off Pittsburgh 21-14 on Sunday afternoon.
The Steelers took a 7-0 lead in the final minute of the first quarter on a 43-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes.
That lead remained until the third quarter, when Warner, who replaced Matt Leinart again, threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jerheme Urban to tie the game at 7 midway through the third.
The Steelers were handed a golden opportunity to take a lead late in the third, when a Warner fumble was recovered by LB James Harrison at the 4. But, on third and goal from the 2, Big Ben's pass intended for Heath Miller was picked off in the end zone by Adrian Wilson.
After the Cardinals' drive stalled, so did the Steelers' next drive, and it was time to punt from the 19. Daniel Sepulveda boomed a 59-yarder to the 22, and it was returned by Steve Breaston only to the 25. But, a penalty by backup RB Carey Davis for being illegally downfield meant Sepulveda had to do it again, this time from five yards back.
The rookie from Baylor booted another 59 yarder, but this time the rookie speedster from Michigan got room to run, and more room, and more room, going 73 yards for six points and a Cardinals lead.
After the Steelers went nowhere, Leinart returned for Arizona's next drive and led the Cardinals to a clock-draining, 13-play, 82-yard drive that ended with a two-yard run by Edgerrin James that sealed the deal with 4:18 left.
Big Ben hooked up with Holmes for a 7-yard score with 1:54 left, and the Steelers got the ball back with 52 seconds left, but an interception with six seconds left wrapped it up for Arizona, as Ken Whisenhunt picked up a victory against the team he coached with for the last six seasons.
The Cardinals defense did a great job of limiting Pittsburgh's offense, which had been excellent in the first three games. Roethlisberger was 17 of 32 for 244 yards, with Holmes making six catches for 128 yards. But the running game was absolutely shut down, as Willie Parker was held to only 37 yards on 19 carries, and after going for over 200 yards in each of the past two games, the league's leading ground game gained only 77 yards on 26 carries on Sunday.
On top of that, eleven penalties made a huge, huge difference, especially Davis' big penalty in the fourth that set up the game-breaking score.
It's hard to find positives in a loss, because really, there aren't many, outside of Holmes' big performance.
The defense had a decent day, holding the Cardinals' potent passing attack to only 225 yards and 86 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, the Cardinals offense came through with the plays when they needed them.
You never like going over double digits in penalties, but when those penalties come back to bite you big time, like they did on Sunday, it's not about how many you get, it's when you get them.
Besides the two interceptions, the Steelers fumbled three other times, as Big Ben put it on the ground twice, and Parker dropped it once, but fortunately, all three ended it up back in Pittsburgh's hands.
After playing efficient, relatively mistake-free football for the first three games, Sunday was a big step back. You've got to give credit to the Cardinals for making the plays when they needed to, and for shutting down the run, but unnecessary mistakes like penalties, fumbles, and turnovers just give the opposition an opening that they shouldn't get.
The Steelers must rebound quickly as they welcome the Seahawks into town next Sunday.
Seattle moved to 3-1 and into the NFC West lead with a 23-3 victory at San Francisco on Sunday. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns, and is off to a solid start in '07. Shaun Alexander ran for 78 yards, and Deion Branch had 130 yards on six catches.
After getting a bitter taste of the losing medicine, it's early gut-check time for Pittsburgh, as the Seahawks are going to come ready to play in the teams' first matchup since Super Bowl XL, a game Mike Holmgren probably still feels the Seahawks were robbed of by the refs.
The Steelers still have the division lead, as the surprising Browns knocked off the Ravens 27-13 on Sunday, putting both teams at 2-2, with 1-2 Cincinnati to play New England at home on Monday Night football.
But, with the race looking to be close, Mike Tomlin's bunch must bounce back quickly to avoid back-to-back losses. And, I'm sure Tomlin will work the team hard in practice this week to get them back on top of their game for next Sunday, when we will hopefully see Pittsburgh return to winning ways.