First Look: The Pittsburgh Steelers

It's supposed to be a new offense, but the formula remains the same: run, win; don't run, lose. Willie Parker, the NFL's leading rusher after the first three weeks, was held to 37 yards rushing by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Parker was held under 100 yards nine times last season, and the Steelers lost seven of those games.

"He was frustrated the whole day," receiver Santonio Holmes said. "He came to me and said our offense isn't going to do anything without a running game. I told him, 'Willie, you can't even think like that. Everything happens for a reason.'"

The Steelers may have opened things up a little in their passing game, but they believe they have to run to win.

"We weren't able to run the ball successfully," coach Mike Tomlin said.

There's certainly no panic setting in over it. After all, Parker had 368 rushing yards after three games. What they worry about is that some former coaches might have found a way to expose their running game and show how to stop the offense led by Parker and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. If that's so, the Steelers can expect to see more blitzes as a way to get to the quarterback and to stop the run.

Arizona also might have created a new blueprint for attacking the Steelers' aggressive defense. Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was able to dice the secondary while running the team's no-huddle sets.

"Kurt Warner came in and he had a large offensive no-huddle arm band," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "We knew we were going to get it. It's just plays that we were supposed to make, we didn't."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Steelers ran their streak of consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher against them to 29 by holding Edgerrin James to 77 yards. In the past 54 games, counting playoffs, James is the only player to surpass 100 against them, with the Colts in 2005.

--QB Ben Roethlisberger's relationship with former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was frosty. The two did not speak before or after the game in Arizona on Sunday. "I didn't get a chance to," said Roethlisberger, who did chat with former Steelers coaches Kevin Spencer and Russ Grimm, now on the Cardinals staff. "I congratulate him on a great win."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Hines Ward, who did not play Sunday in Arizona, hopes to return to start against Seattle in Heinz Field this week. It was the fourth game Ward has missed in his 10-year career. He has a sprained knee.
--WR Santonio Holmes, who scored two touchdowns as a rookie last season, leads the Steelers with three touchdowns, all on receptions.
--WR Willie Reid played in his first game of the season and only the second game of his two-year career. He caught his first two NFL passes for 18 yards.
--LB Clark Haggans leads the team with three sacks. He is in the final year of his contract after the Steelers declined to sign him to an extension.
--NT Casey Hampton has a hamstring injury, and he left Sunday's game for good in the second half. Hampton missed one game last season and none in 2005.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. CARDINALS

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, but he also threw two interceptions, one from Arizona's 2-yard line into the end zone. He was sacked four times and forced to move out of the pocket many other times. He completed 17 of 32 passes for 244 yards, and his passer rating was 72.9, his lowest of the season.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Willie Parker was not only held under 100 for the first time, he managed just 37 yards on 19 carries, an average of 1.9 per -- 20 of those yards on one play. Roethlisberger was the team's second-leading rusher, just 11 yards. Overall, the Steelers had just 77 yards rushing and a 3.0-yard average with no touchdowns.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- Combined, Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart completed 21 of 35 passes for 225 yards with one TD and no interceptions. Warner, though, lost a fumble in the shotgun formation. The Steelers, off to a fast start with 12 sacks in their first three games, managed only two.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Cardinals ran for only 86 yards and a 3.4-yard average, another strong effort by the Steelers run defense. Edgerrin James led them with 77 yards and ran for a touchdown. This, even though the Steelers lost two Pro Bowl defenders in the second half, safety Troy Polamalu and nose tackle Casey Hampton. Arizona's running game did not hold the key to the Cardinals' victory.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- A penalty on one successful punt forced the Steelers to kick again, and rookie Steve Breaston made them pay for it by returning it 73 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cardinals the lead for good. First-round draft choice Lawrence Timmons was penalized for running out of bounds on one punt, and second-round pick LaMarr Woodley was penalized for holding on another. There were no Pittsburgh returns of note. Arizona's Neil Rackers missed the only field-goal try of the game, from 52 yards.

COACHING: C -- The Steelers have never spent more time practicing special teams than they have this year, and the improvement is minimal if at all. Mike Tomlin admitted he thought of replacing his gassed-out "gunners" on the punt coverage team after a penalty forced Pittsburgh to punt again. Instead, the next punt was returned for a TD. He pulled a gutsy -- crazy? -- move by going for it on fourth-and-inches on his own 29 early in the game.


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