Behind Enemy Lines: Pittsburgh Steelers host Arizona Cardinals
For the second straight week, the Arizona Cardinals have a game in the Eastern time zone against a team coming off a Monday night game on the west coast.
Last week, the Cardinals destroyed the Detroit Lions, who had lost a heartbreaker in Seattle. This week, they’ll visit the Pittsburgh Steelers, who beat the San Diego Chargers in dramatic fashion at Qualcomm Stadium Monday night.
All week, we’ll keep you updated on everything going on in the Steel City as Pittsburgh prepares to take on the Cardinals at Heinz Field.
Friday, October 16
Dupree, part of a four-man outside linebacker rotation for the Steelers, was tied with Saints linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha for the rookie sack lead through five weeks with 3.0. Kikaha recorded a sack Thursday night against Atlanta to take the outright lead. Thirty-four NFL players had at least three sacks as of Thursday, and two rookies were in that bunch. Dupree has 13 tackles and is on pace to play more than 500 snaps, a sign that he’s earned trust from the coaching staff.
If Pouncey misses the entire season, it would be his second full year lost since 2013, when he sat out after tearing an ACL.
The Brandon Boykin mystery continues.
When the Steelers traded a conditional fifth-round pick to the Eagles for the rights to Boykin, the move presumably solved a need at cornerback.
But Boykin has played one defensive snap — one! — in the last three weeks. He’s logged less than 20 snaps the entire year.
The Steelers’ once-potent offense has sputtered since Ben Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury nine quarters ago and Vick took over:
• The offense fell from fifth to 13th in the NFL.
• The passing game dipped from third to 19th.
• In 32 drives, Vick has led the offense to more than two first downs only four times.
• Ten times they have gone three-and-out.
• The offense has scored only 40 points.
Steelers might need to turn Vick loose Sunday vs. high-scoring Arizona (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
What if Mike Vick started playing football like Michael Vick, the former swashbuckling quarterback, the magician who could pull touchdowns out of hats and turn defeats into victories?
Might the Steelers be better with that quarterback?
Don’t expect Haley to turn Vick loose vs. Cardinals (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said on Thursday what most everyone who has watched the Steelers the past two weeks already surmised. He is calling a scaled-back game with backup quarterback Mike Vick, and he doesn’t plan to change a lot on Sunday when the Steelers play host to the Arizona Cardinals.
Thursday, October 15
Whether Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s chances to return Sunday are 1 or 100 percent, the Cardinals have to worry about those chances now, even though the number is probably closer to 1.
One of the best things the NFL has to offer is an elite corner matching up with elite receiver on a Sunday. This will be the case when Steelers wideout Antonio Brown and Cardinals corner Patrick Peterson face off Sunday at 1 p.m. in Heinz Field.
“He’s got to take some shots,” Brown said from his locker Wednesday. “I told him, trust me a little bit. Let me make some plays. Let’s get a victory. It doesn’t have to be that hard.”
The team classified Roethlisberger as a limited participant during its first practice of the week as it prepares for Sunday’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals. The quarterback has missed the past two games since spraining his left MCL and bruising a bone in his left knee during a Sept. 27 win at St. Louis.
Is Ben on the verge of returning? (Steelers.com)
Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t offer any type of injury update during his weekly press conference this week on Roethlisberger, saying he was focused on guys who ‘were on the brink’ of returning to action.
Wednesday, October 14
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is ready to participate in practice 17 days after suffering a sprained left MCL and bone bruise, widely believed to be a four- to six-week injury.
Video: Analyst Jon Gruden breaks down the quarterbacks difficulty in the Pittsburgh offensive scheme.
Consider this stat from ESPN: Roethlisberger was 29-of-34 targeting Brown in 11 quarters before the injury, while Vick is 8-of-17 targeting Brown in nine quarters, resulting in eight catches for 87 yards in the last two games.
Steelers’ road show boggles the mind (TribLive.com)
“It was a tough environment tonight — like being on the road,” Philip Rivers said. “Odd is one word we could use. We were in a silent count, and we had no chance. We were checking in and out of plays, and it was about as tough as it gets. I’m usually hoarse after road games, and I’m going to be today as well.”
Tomlin had the courage of his convictions on final play call (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made the call to go for the victory against San Diego instead of settling for overtime Monday night because he doesn’t “live in his fears.” Had Le’Veon Bell been tackled short of the goal line, Tomlin would have been under fire this week for snapping the ball to his halfback and having him run with only five seconds remaining with a timeout still at his disposal.
Tuesday, October 13
From the 1-yard line, Le’Veon Bell takes the snap, he waits, he waits, he waits — man, did he wait — and he follows a flailing David DeCastro into the end zone, stretching the ball over the goal line as time expires for a win the Steelers so desperately needed.
That sequence explains where the Steelers are right now. This is a good-but-flawed team that must pull out every stop to get wins until Ben Roethlisberger returns. Monday’s wild 24-20 win was no different.
Had Bell not scored on that play, however, the NFL would have had another wild controversy on its hands. For reasons that were not immediately clear, 18 seconds ran off the game clock after a touchback at the start of the Steelers’ final possession.
Rossi: Just wait until Ben comes back (TribLive.com)
The Steelers were supposed to range from lousy to awful on the side of the ball for which the franchise is most reputable. The secondary was to be terrible. The linebackers were to be a work in progress. The line was to be good, but not very deep.
The defense was far from perfect in the Steelers’ 24-20 victory Monday night against the San Diego Chargers. After all, it allowed a sounds-worse-than-it-looked 406 yards, seemingly (again) had no answer for stopping an opposing tight end, and it gave up points on the Chargers’ final three possessions as it fatigued in an uncharacteristic steamy San Diego heat.
Ron Cook: Stunningly, Vick trumps Rivers to help Steelers escape with victory (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Wouldn’t you know it that Vick outplayed Rivers in a 24-20 win that went down to the final play, a daring call by coach Mike Tomlin to go for it all from the 1-yard line on a run by Le’Veon Bell with five seconds left. From the wildcat formation, no less.
Last-second wins are exciting, but throughout games which go down to the wire some players can be left out in terms of recognition. Also, some players’ mistakes are masked by the fact the team had a dramatic win. This very well could be the case after the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 5 win over the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football. See who were dubbed ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers’ after their latest victory.