The Pittsburgh Steelers offense has been off to an insufferably inept start, netting a full three points on a short field. Mike Vick has hardly been able to do anything at all, more successful scrambling than throwing. And still, they trail just 10-3, getting the ball to start the third quarter. Unless the offense improves, however, there is virtually no chance of them pulling off the upset.
Dri Archer brought the opening kick of the half out to the 39. Martavis Bryant gained eight on an end around on first down, with Le’Veon Bell finding around a dozen to the left size into Cardinals territory.
A flea flicker pitch back to Vick from Bell resulted in a scramble for a first. From the 34, however, Bell was hit for yet another loss, this one for three yards. After escaping pressure, Vick scrambled again to pick up seven, setting up third and six and breathing down the neck of field goal territory. Vick managed to stay in the game after looking like he was shaken up, but they had to use a timeout. On third down, however, his pass to Bryant in the end zone was incomplete. Chris Boswell, however, was able to hit on a 48-yard attempt. His first three career field goals have all come from 47-48 yards, and he has made all three.
Following another kickoff five-to-six yards deep, the Cardinals were able to return it close to the 25. Chris Johnson gained about four on first down. On second and six, a wide receiver screen netted close to five. The ball came loose, however, and Arthur Moats came out on top of it. James Harrison‘s big hit on John Brown forced the fumble.
Landry Jones entered the game, with something clearly wrong with Vick. From the 32, a pitch to Bell picked up 22 yards to set up first and goal. From the 10, he cut up inside for about two yards. Jones’ first pass was intended for Bryant to the back pylon on the right side, but incomplete, with no play on the ball. Eight yards out from the goal, Jones found Bryant in the back of the end zone as the receiver made a strong effort to come down inbounds through a big hit while securing possession. The Steelers set up for a two-point conversion, a pass that was easily intercepted, so Pittsburgh secures a 12-10 lead.
Boswell’s kick was returned once again and brought out to the 30-yard line. Brown snagged a slightly high pass from Palmer for about 11 yards out past the 40-yard line. Johnson picked up two yards on the following play. On second and eight, Stephon Tuitt drew a holding penalty as he gained penetration up the middle on a Palmer scramble. On second and 18, Palmer missed his throw to the sideline, setting up third and 18. Harrison brought Palmer down for the sack after ending the previous drive with a forced fumble, now forcing the Cardinals to punt.
After a penalty on Arizona during the ensuing punt for an illegal hands to the face penalty, they replayed fourth down on fourth and 36, from the 15. Antonio Brown fair caught the ball at about the Steelers’ 41-yard line. Points on this drive would be huge.
Jones remains in with Vick sidelined with a hamstring injury. His first pass of the drive was behind Brown for an incompletion. Bell picked up two yards up the middle to set up a third and long. A false start made it third and 13. On the play, Jones connected with Bryant for the first down inside Arizona territory, to the 39. Of course, Bell was stopped for his scheduled tackle for loss after that, this time for two.
On second and 12, Jones connected with Markus Wheaton for about eight to set up third and four. Unfortunately, he skipped his third-down pass with two receivers in the area. Boswell’s 51-yard attempt was good. Boswell is certainly endearing himself to the Pittsburgh public today.
Shamarko Thomas tackled the returner short of the 20-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. From the 18, Palmer found his tight end for a first down to the 31. Antwon Blake was unable to come back to the ball, with John Brown making the deep catch down the field on an underthrow to the 27. Palmer nearly had Michael Floyd for the touchdown, but he was just a bit out of bounds. A quick pass to Larry Fitzgerald set up third and short. Arthur Moats was the first to put Johnson on his back for a loss to end the third quarter. A field goal made it a two-point game again with a quarter left.
Archer returned the kickoff out to the 22 as he ran out of room. Bell was stuffed for no gain on first down. On second and 10, a quick pass to Bryant that was behind him picked up 10 yards. On the next play, Bell maneuvered his way through trash for a nine-yard gain. A back shoulder pass to Brown put him in positive yardage for a nice pickup to the 36.
Brown was dragged down after about three yards on the following play nearing field goal range once again. On second and seven, Bell found the edge, but the defense closed quickly to limit him to four yards. On third and three, Jones got the ball out quickly to Heath Miller to move the chains.
Bell stayed on his feet for five yards to crack the red zone to the 19-yard line. Another run from Bell picked up seven for a first down getting toward the goal line. From the 12, the All-Pro stayed patient, finding the crease to pick up four yards to the eight-yard line. On second and six, five wide, Jones’ pass to the back pylon for Brown was a bit too strong. The Steelers failed to convert on a huge third down, however, with Bell getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage for a surprising run call. Boswell’s fourth field goal of the day, much easier than his previous three, made it 18-13.
The kick return was bobbled but regathered and returned to the 22-yard line. After a three-yard pickup, Ross Cockrell was flagged for pass interference, a total gain of about 10 yards. He was flagged two plays later for pass interference, but it was negated because Harrison was also held on the play, resulting in offsetting penalties. Replaying second and seven, Palmer connected with Brown for about nine yards for the first down.
From the 49, Palmer found Fitzgerald for 10 yards under the five-minute mark. Johnson was brought down after a four-yard gain to the 37. On second and six, William Gay blitzed and caught Johnson to stop him for a loss of two. On third and eight, Brown blew by Blake for the first down into field goal range.
From the 20, Palmer threw straight down the middle of the end zone, intercepted by Mike Mitchell, who has been playing very well this season. Both Mitchell and Cockrell fell injured on the play, with the latter falling nearly headfirst after the interception.
After a personal foul on Harrison after the interception, the Steelers recovered the ball at the 10 with 2:20 to play, with the Cardinals bearing three timeouts. A short run by Bell drew the first Arizona timeout. On second and eight, Jones hit Bryant for a first down, who took it 88 yards on a slant route for the touchdown, his second of the game. The Steelers jumped out to a 25-13 lead as a result, with under two minutes to play.
After touchback, a pair of quick hookups inbounds brought the ball to the 43. Brown picked up 20, ball spiked with 1:04 remaining. The Steelers were penalized for 12 men on the field for five yards. From the 32, Fitzgerald could not escape a tackle. Brown down to the 15 with 35 seconds to play, Arizona still with both timeouts. Palmer took a hit under pressure after about six seconds as he threw too deep in the back of the end zone. On third and 10, Williams made the stop short of the first down to set up fourth and short as the Cardinals used a timeout. With 21 seconds to play, on fourth and three, Palmer’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone as the Steeler took a knee to secure their most improbable of victories.