AZ vs. Pitt: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

It is hard to believe that the time for football has already arrived. The Arizona Cardinals battled the Pittsburg Steelers on ESPN in a Super Bowl rematch last Thursday. While the game lacked the energy of their last match up, it still provided important insight into the current state of the Cardinals. reviews the positives and the negatives from Thursday's game.

The Arizona Cardinals first performance since the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 provided an opportunity to see what improvements the team has made during the offseason. The Cardinals added depth to their secondary and attempted to rejuvenate their running game. Both showed signs of production, but the big question mark lingered over their newest running back. Can Chris Wells stay healthy?

Wells spent his first official NFL game exactly where critics feared he would be: on the sidelines. A sprained ankle kept the college superstar on the bench and even though it is a minor injury, it still does not bode well for the Cardinals.

Injury prone players can be extremely detrimental to creating a stable franchise. Wells needs to get onto the field as soon as possible and prove that he can stay there. In a relatively meaningless game, Wells simply provided more media fodder to sustain the scrutiny of his medical past.

The Cardinals first-string offense was a bit rusty in their 2009 debut. Warner struggled to move the ball and never seemed to find a grove. Luckily, there is still plenty of time for one of the league's premier offenses to take flight. Matt Leinart (8/14, 83 yards) also had trouble moving the offense, although he did fair better than his competition, Brian St.Pierre (4/10, 42 yards 1 INT).

The defense was not running on all cylinders and failed to produce a turnover all game. The Cardinals' D thrives on takeaways and no doubt Whisenhunt will be focused on that throughout next week's practice. If the Cardinals cannot force a turnover again next week, it should begin to concern Cardinal fans.

Tim Hightower ran with power and seemed to be propelled by the arrival of stiff competition. His ability to stay healthy may be the deciding factor in winning the starting job over Wells. Hightower ran for 24 yards on 6 carries, in limited duty. Rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling finished with identical numbers, but mainly against the bottom of the depth chart. The running game was above average without Wells.

At the end of the game, the Cardinals showed that they have added depth (although partly injured) and played consistent, yet not spectacular, defense through three quarters. Neither team could move the ball until the fourth quarter when the Steelers broke it open.

Kurt Warner's numbers where better than his performance. As Warner heads into another NFL season, it will be up to the running game to relieve the pressure. Overall, the Cardinals showed they have been dedicated to practice. What remains to be seen is if they can re-create the fire and passion that catapulted them all the way to last year's Big Game.

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