The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing their biggest challenge yet in going up today against the Arizona Cardinals, one of the most explosive teams in the league, and doing so without Ben Roethlisberger. Mike Vick has struggled in his place in spite of his play in the last eight minutes of the team’s come-from-behind win a week ago.
The Steelers do get back Martavis Bryant for this game, but they are also missing Will Allen, Ryan Shazier, and Jarvis Jones on the defensive side of the ball, which will not make it any easier slowing down Bruce Arians‘ club.
Inactive for the Steelers in this game are the following players:
QB Ben Roethlisberger
S Will Allen
LB Ryan Shazier
CB Cortez Allen
TE Jesse James
G Chris Hubbard
LB Jarvis Jones
And for the visiting team:
LB Alex Okafor
QB Matt Barkley
OL Earl Watford
T D.J. Humphries
WR J.J. Nelson
LB Shaq Riddick
NT Xavier Williams
The Cardinals won the coin toss and chose to receive, predictably. Chris Boswell‘s opening kickoff–his first in Pittsburgh, was short, likely deliberately, fielded around the 10-yard line, bobbld, and returned to just outside the 20. The Steelers opened in the nickel, as they did a week ago. On first down for Carson Palmer and the Cardinals, they went vertical immediately, as Ross Cockrell failed to defend a pass to John Brown in his coverage.
From the 32 already, Andre Ellington found seven yards up the left side to the 25. On second down, Steve McLendon checked in and pushed the center into the backfield. The back fumbled, but Jermaine Gresham recovered the ball to take a seven-yard loss. On third and 10, Palmer was incomplete to Larry Fitzgerald. Bobby Massie foolishly drew a personal foul penalty after the play to knock themselves out of field goal range. Antonio Brown fielded the punt around the 10-yard line and returned the ball out to the 18.
On the first play from scrimmage, Le’Veon Bell was dropped for a loss with the fullback Roosevelt Nix starting. On second down, with Brown in the sidecar, the screen pass went in his direction, but he was pulled down for a two-yard loss. On third and 12, Vick’s first pass down the field of the game was one that should have been picked off by Tyrann Mathieu. It was at least his seventh pass that could have been intercepted that wasn’t, in exactly 60 pass attempts. Jordan Berry‘s punt was short and left the defense with not much grass to defend.
From the Steelers’ 45, after a two-yard run on first down, Palmer found Fitzgerald for a short gain to set up third and two. In spite of a three-man rush, the Steelers got pressure, but Palmer found Ellington down the field to set up first and goal. From the seven, Chris Johnson picked up about half of the yardage. On second down, the pass to the corner was well-defended, with Cameron Heyward putting Palmer on the ground. From the three, however, an easy pitch-and-catch to Michael Floyd put Arizona on top, 7-0. Sean Spence deflected the pass, but not enough to prevent the reception.
Dri Archer returned the kickoff out to the 22, but a penalty on Nix put the Steelers back to the seven. Vick nearly took a safety on first down from Calais Campbell after beating Kelvin Beachum. On second and 15, Vick heaved it up to Brown, but a roughing the passer penalty proved to be Pittsburgh’s best offensive play of the game thus far, putting them back out to the 17.
On first down, Bell was lucky just to get back to the line of scrimmage. Following a lead block from Nix on the edge, Bell found some space up the left side for eight yards. On third and one, Arizona penetrated immediately and busted Bell behind the line of scrimmage for a big loss. Berry’s second punt was a bit better, with a small return ending at Arizona’s 40.
On first down, Vince Williams deflected pass near the sticks, with Lawrence Timmons showing exceptional instincts to pull in the ball for just their fourth interception of the season. From their own 48, Vick scrambled for eight off of play action and a roll out to his left. On second and two, DeAngelo Williams, like Bell, had not a hair’s breadth of breathing room, stopped for a loss of one on the ground. On third and three, Vick threw to Bryant horizontally, tossed down by Mathieu for just a short gain. Berry’s third punt was stopped by Brandon Boykin at the two-yard line.
Chris Johnon picked up about three yards on first down. He caught the edge for the first down on the following play. Following an incompletion, Palmer and Fitzgerald combined again for a gain of about eight. On third and short, David Johnson easily picked up about five yards. From the 32, Brown picked up 15 yards near midfield. Johnson on the ground was good for eight up the middle to end the first quarter.
On second and two, the Steelers crowded the line of scrimmage, with Heyward penetrating and making the stop for a loss of three. On third and five, Palmer’s vertical shot fell incomplete into double coverage, with Harrison coming around the edge. Arizona’s punt bounced in for a touchback.
On first down, Vick pitched it back to Bell, who finally had some room to pick up nine yards. Bell was good for four to move the chains, the first time of the game not via penalty. From the 34, however, Bell was cut down for another significant loss of four as Beachum stayed on the ground injured. Beachum had played every snap for the Steelers since the start of the 2014 season up to this point.
The replay shows a potentially very serious knee injury for Beachum as Alejandro Villanueva replaces him. On second down, Vick’s deep pass to Markus Wheaton was broken up. Vick scrambled for about 12 yards on third down. Berry’s fourth punt was returned to the 33.
Chris Johnson picked up four yards on first down off the right side. Fitzgerald’s catch brought the Cardinals past midfield, cut a chop block penalty resulted instead in a 15-yard penalty. On first and 25 now, Fitzgerald picked up that and more with a perfect screen pass that was set up well, resulting in a first down all the way to the 34 for 44 yards.
An incompletion on first down gave way to a four-yard reception to Johnson. On third and six, William Gay came up over top to break up the pass intended for Fitzgerald as the Cardinals settled for a field goal. The 47-yard attempt was no good, hooking left and perhaps short as well. The offense gets good field position off of the miss.
Perhaps sparked by the miss, Bell picked up 11 yards on first down for the sputtering offense, starting from the 37. Yet another personal foul on the Cardinals pushed the Steelers across midfield, all the way to the 37 of the Cardinals. However, Bell tried to bounce his next run outside as he was dropped for a loss, as Cody Wallace drew a holding penalty.
Now first and 20 from the 47, a pitch to Bell picked up just four yards. On second and 16, Vick was intercepted down the field, but on a free play, as the defense had gone offside. The Steelers in second and 11, Vick scrambled again, this time picking up around 10 yards on a run that put the Steelers in field goal range and set up a third and short. Landry Jones was forced to enter the game for the first snap of his career as Vick was checked for a concussion. Bell was short on third and one, but Boswell’s 47-yard field goal put the offense on the board at 7-3.
Boswell’s kickoff was returned from about five yards deep as the kick was returned just shy of the 20. From the 19, Robert Golden defended a vertical pass to the tight end on first down. On second down, it was Heyward knifing into the backfield to hit Johnson for a loss of three. On third and 13, however, Palmer managed to get the ball out to Floyd for about 15 to move the chains. The drive ultimately ended with Cockrell breaking up a pass for Floyd in the end zone as the Cardinals’ field goal made it a 10-3 game.
Archer was stuffed on the return at the 14-yard line. After a seven-yard screen to Bryant, Vick’s second-down pass downfield was errant and out of bounds. On third and three, Vick scrambled and threw the ball away, giving the Cardinals the ball back with 22 seconds and a timeout in the pocket. Fortunately, Berry managed to get off a 79-yard punt, as the Cardinals were content to end the half.