I’ve been watching Pittsburgh Steelers football for the better part of my 25 years on this earth, and I’m not sure I can ever remember seeing a more unlikely victory than this 25-13 shocker.
The Arizona Cardinals looked like they were off to a fast start when Carson Palmer found John Brown for a 45-yard reception on the team’s first play from scrimmage. The Steelers defense stood strong however, forcing a punt just three plays later.
Arizona would make no such mistakes on their second drive, marching 47 yards on six plays, capped by a three-yard touchdown catch by Michael Floyd, who beat Antwon Blake off the line of scrimmage with a nifty inside release.
The Steelers offense continued to struggle, failing to pick up a first down except due to penalty in the entire first quarter. At the end of the first 15 minutes, the Steelers had just five yards of offense.
Arizona couldn’t build on their advantage however, as Palmer was picked off by Lawrence Timmons late in the first quarter. Pittsburgh could do nothing with the ball until mid-second quarter, when a Le’Veon Bell 11-yard carry was followed up by a personal foul by Arizona linebacker Kevin Minter to move the ball to the Cardinals 37. Vick managed a ten-yard scramble to get Pittsburgh into field goal range, but was injured on the play thanks to an inadvertent knee to the helmet.
Chris Boswell nailed the 47-yard field goal to make the score 7-3, but the Cardinals mounted a methodical 13-play, 68-yard drive before Michael Floyd couldn’t hang on to a Palmer’s throw in the back of the end zone on third down. Ross Cockrell had tight coverage, but replays revealed a blatant hold of Floyd’s jersey that went uncalled. Chris Catanzaro had missed a 47-yarder earlier in the game, but he nailed the 31-yard boot with 51 seconds left in the half to make the score 10-3 at halftime.
Vick went to work early in the third quarter, scrambling a couple times to get Pittsburgh into range for Boswell to nail a 48-yard field goal less than four minutes into the half. Vick hurt his hamstring on the drive however, and would not return to the game.
The Cardinals managed just two plays for nine yards before James Harrison lit up John Brown to force a fumble at the Cardinals 32-yard line that Mike Mitchell recovered. Bell wasted no time getting Pittsburgh into the red zone, racing 22 yards to the Arizona 10 on the first play of the drive. Landry Jones would then complete his first NFL pass to Martavis Bryant in the back of the end zone on 3rd down, who made an incredible leaping grab to snag a high throw. The questionable ensuing two-point conversion pass was intercepted.
So with Pittsburgh clinging to a 12-10 lead, Harrison sacked Palmer on third down to force a Cardinals punt. Jones went to work for Pittsburgh, finding Bryant for 23 yards to convert a 3rd-and-13. The offense would work their way just inside Boswell’s range, giving the rookie kicker the opportunity to nail a 51-yard field goal directly through the uprights.
The Cardinals responded with a field goal of their own to cut the Steelers lead to 15-13, but Jones and Bell would combine to lead Pittsburgh on a 13-play, 68-yard drive for Boswell’s fourth field goal of the game to make the score 18-13.
Palmer attempted to bring Arizona back by guiding the offense 59 yards downfield with just over seven minutes remaining at the start of the drive, but Mitchell ended the threat with an excellent leaping interception in the end zone with 2:20 left.
Arizona still had all of their timeouts and the two-minute warning, forcing Pittsburgh to pick up at least one first down to run out the clock. The Steelers had no such intentions however, as Jones whipped a completion to Bryant on 2nd-and-8. Weaving through seemingly the entire Cardinals defense, Bryant somehow managed to outrun the entire unit to the end zone for an incredible 88-yard touchdown and a 25-13 lead.
Palmer and the Cardinals would attempt to add a garbage-time touchdown, but the Steelers defense again held strong, as John Brown’s 4th down catch was ruled out of bounds with 13 seconds remaining.
It was an incredibly unlikely victory, from the much-maligned Jones throwing for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 8-12 passing, to the perhaps equally abhorred Mitchell coming up with two game-changing turnovers. The newly-acquired Boswell remained perfect on the season, connecting four times, including kicks from 47, 48, and 51 yards. Bell was brilliant again as well, rushing 24 times for 88 yards against a tough Cardinals defense. Perhaps no one’s performance was as remarkable as Bryant’s, who snagged six passes for 137 yards and two scores.
The Steelers will carry their 4-2 record to Kansas City next week to battle the 1-5 Chiefs, who have lost five games in a row since Week 1.