4:01 PM EST Not surprisingly, today's game in Arizona is all about the new stadium. It has a retractable roof, a retractable field, and for the first time in six years (SIX!) the Cards have actually sold out a game. This leads me to believe that the team should build a new stadium every off-season and then sit back and rake in the profits.
This team is so downtrodden that during the intro pimping the new digs, a graphic comes on the screen that reads: "Finally A Home Field Advantage!" To be fair, the place looks amazing, but still, how can you not feel sorry for these guys?
4:04 PM EST Um, announcers just informed us that it's 104 degrees outside in Phoenix. Fahrenheit. Inside the spanking new Cardinals Stadium? Seventy-five degrees. Not too shabby.
4:05 PM EST Uh oh. The Steelers won the toss but with Ricardo Colclough back to receive the kick, this may be a short possession. Luckily, rookie Santonio Holmes takes the kick and returns it to the 24-yard line. Here comes Ben Roethlisberger.
4:08 PM EST On third-and-three, Big Ben's in the shotgun with Verron Haynes to his left. Anyone who's watched a half of a Steelers game knows that the play call is A) a draw play to Haynes, or B) a screen pass to Haynes. Either the Cardinals defense hasn't seen even a half of a Steelers game or they were playing the draw. Roethlisberger hits Haynes on the screen for an 11-yard gain. I'm not sure if it's in the playbook, but Verron does his usual post-play shimmy as he heads to the sidelines.
4:09 PM EST On the very next play, Roethlisberger drops back, does his typical break-the-pocket-right-and-then-throw-left maneuver and hits Willie Parker for a seven-yard gain. The most amazing thing about this play wasn't Ben's ability to scramble – we're all used to that by now – it's that Willie actually caught the pass.
4:10 PM EST Two plays later Ben does himself one better by breaking a tackle in the backfield and throwing a frozen rope across his body to Heath Miller. (Me shaking my head in half-amazement, half-disbelief.)
4:12 PM EST And with 9:45 left to go in the quarter, Quincy Morgan drops his first pass of the game. I should've taken the under.
4:13 PM EST On third-and-five from the Cards' 27, Roethlisberger is sacked. Well, whether he was ready for it or not, it looks like Big Ben can take a hit. Kudos Mercy Hospital.
And here comes Skippy to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Coach Cowher promptly calls timeout to ice his own kicker. Interesting.
4:16 PM EST Mission accomplished, Bill. Jeff Reed misses wide left.
4:18 PM EST And we have our first "Big Ben was in an Off-season Motorcycle Accident" story of the 2006 season. One down, 17 million to go. Again, I should've taken the under.
4:19 PM EST So much for worrying about losing Kimo von Oelhoffen. Brett Keisel makes the first two plays of the drive – an Edgerrin James tackle for a loss followed by a Kurt Warner take down just past the line of scrimmage.
4:23 PM EST Too bad this isn't the CFL because the Steelers are great at getting to third down. After that the defense has basically consisted of "Watch Kurt Warner Complete a Long Pass to A Ridiculously Wide Open Receiver." That must be one of the plays left over from Tim Lewis's playbook.
4:25 PM EST Kurt Warner to Bryant Johnson for the first touchdown ever in the new building. It's amazing how easy it is to score when a team converts four third downs on one drive. Like I said, the Cards should open a new stadium every season. Next stop: Miami and Super Bowl XLI!
Arizona 7 Pittsburgh 0
4:31 PM EST Charlie Batch takes over during the second series and on third-and-five, hits Santonio Holmes for a first down. Nice pass, nice catch. And with that, the first quarter is in the books.
Arizona 7 Pittsburgh 0
4:38 PM EST On third-and-three, Batch throws a ball in the end zone just out of Nate Washington's reach. Washington beat the corner and Batch dropped it in front of the safety. Unfortunately, Nate couldn't make the play. No worries, though. Skippy nails a 48-yarder.
Arizona 7 Pittsburgh 3
4:44 PM EST Pittsburgh's already going with the second-team defense but Denny Green, doing his best Steve Spurrier impersonation, still has his first team on the field. I know, I know, it's great for the home team to win the first game in the new place, but unless the rules have changed, preseason wins don't count. Just making an observation
4:46 PM EST For all that Colclough can't do on special teams, he just broke up a Kurt Warner pass-to-Anquan Boldin while playing defense. I don't care if he never takes another punt in his career if he can continue to show improvement as a cornerback.
4:50 PM EST On first-and-10, Willie Colon decides that blocking the really big fat guy right in front of him is optional and not surprisingly, said really big fat guy tackles Duce Staley in the backfield for a loss. If it's any consolation, Charles Davis puts a very nice block on the linebacker.
4:59 PM EST The Steelers continue their Give Up Improbably Long Third Down Conversions defense as Kurt Warner is playing like it's 2000. The only thing missing is his wife sitting in the stands with a feather boa and a crew cut.
5:00 PM EST On third-and-three, Anthony Smith makes his first tackle of the game two yards past the line of scrimmage. Finally, a stop on third down. Of course, the Cards go for it on fourth ... and convert.
5:03 PM EST Three plays later, some guy named Obafemi Ayanbadejo scores on a screen pass. The more I watch, the more I'm convinced that this is the Arizona Cardinals' Super Bowl game. They have to play their starters. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Kurt Warner is still winging the ball all over the yard in the fourth quarter.
Arizona 14 Pittsburgh 3
5:06 PM EST Colclough catches the kickoff eight yards deep in the end zone and Holmes literally forces him to down it for a touchback. Ricardo should keep the ball as a souvenir.
5:07 PM EST We have Shane Boyd. Duce Staley is still in the backfield and he can't be happy about having to run behind the second- and third-teamers. As I type this Nate Washington drops a pass that hit him right in the chest. Alright, maybe we should all temper our training camp love affair with Nate. At least until he puts together one good game.
5:14 PM EST Okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit when I said Warner would play the whole game. With less than two minutes to go in the half, John Navarre is in. Doing his best "any quarterback that has ever played for the Cardinals" impression, Navarre throws an ugly interception right into the hands of Anthony Smith.
After that play, I'll conservatively set the over/under for the number of message board threads on this site calling for Smith to be the opening day starter at 20.
5:19 PM EST With 27 seconds in the half and the Steelers driving, Tim Brown is called for holding. We have our first Cowher Face of the season. By the way, every time there's a penalty against Pittsburgh, the camera zooms in on Cowher to gauge his reaction. And without fail, he will inevitably yell, "What number!" to one of the officials as he tries to identify the guilty party. Is Cowher the only guy in the stadium who doesn't have access to this information? Between his headset and the sideline full of assistants, how can he not know this? This is an important question.
5:21 PM EST Nice throw and catch from Boyd to Morgan to set up a field goal right before the half. Not the prettiest 30 minutes of football ever played, but not too bad, all things considered.
Arizona 14 Pittsburgh 6
Third Quarter Thirty minutes of scrubtastic football to go! Seriously, this is where roster spots are won; let's see if anybody sticks out this half.
5:42 PM EST Rian Wallace must be one of those players who doesn't practice like he plays, because he's had a pretty good showing thus far. He and Richard Seigler both have been around the ball all day long.
5:46 PM EST Charles Davis has seen quite a bit of action, but has yet to have a pass thrown in his direction. Still, he's done a solid job of blocking, and that's what he'll need to do to make the team.
5:49 PM EST I was wondering how long it would take for the Curse of the Jersey to take effect. Shane Boyd is at a distinct disadvantage because he's wearing No. 8 and the Ghost of Tommy Maddox is seemingly all over the field. Between the botched plays, fumbles, bobbled snaps, knocked down passes and overall poor decision making, it's just like the Jacksonville Jaguars game all over again. Poor Shane Boyd.
5:56 PM EST John Navarre drops back to pass and is sacked by Richard Seigler, Kimo von Oelhoffen style. Navarre's okay, but I'm sure Bengals fans will circulate a petition on his behalf.
5:58 PM EST Three plays later, Navarre throws a punt and Anthony Smith intercepts it. It's hard to tell if Navarre is just this bad or if Smith is this good; probably a little of both. The over/under for the number of message board threads on this site calling for Smith to be the opening day starter just doubled.
6:02 PM EST After completing a nifty pass to Santonio Holmes, the Curse of the Jersey shows itself as Boyd hits Jon Dekker right in the numbers but Dekker somehow manages to drop the pass. Advantage Davis/Smolko.
6:08 PM EST On third-and-10, Boyd throws a medicine ball to Willie Reid, but he makes the catch and gets the first down. The rookie wideouts have looked pretty good so far.
6:10 PM EST It's official; the Ghost of Tommy is pissed. After a series of wild throws, Boyd tosses an interception at the Cards' 10-yard line. On a pass that required touch, Boyd unloaded a bullet in Holmes' direction that he had no realistic chance of catching. At this point, Boyd might have more luck playing without a jersey altogether.
One quarter to go.
Arizona 14 Pittsburgh 6
6:16 PM EST Just an observation here, but the Steelers third-team run defense isn't very good. And with Anthony Madison racking up penalties like it's a good thing, the pass defense doesn't look so hot either.
Whoops. I forgot about Anthony Smith. He just Polamalued some dude on a screen pass. Absolutely creamed him. Over/under is now at 60.
6:23 PM EST Diamond Ferri (not to be confused with this guy) just scored for the Cardinals. And not surprisingly, it was on a running play.
Arizona 21 Pittsburgh 6
6:28 PM EST It's Omar Jacobs time. And he has a pretty rocky first series. Two incompletions sandwiched around a short completion to Sean Morey and the Steelers are punting. To be fair, Joe Montana would struggle matriculating the ball up the field with the likes of Morey, Mays, and Young at wideout, but I don't think this will make Jacobs feel any better if he gets cut.
On the next play, Frazier makes another play behind the line of scrimmage on an attempted screen pass.
6:40 PM EST Jacobs is in for his second series, and with only four minutes and change left in the game, he starts the drive at the Steelers 20. Let's see if he can string a few passes together and build some confidence.
6:42 PM EST He hits his new favorite target Sean Morey on first down. After John Kuhn runs for 15 yards up the middle, Jacobs scrambles left and hits Morey again for an 18-yard gain. And when I say, "hits Morey," I'm serious. Sean looks like he's trying to catch a butterfly as the ball smacks him in the stomach. Amazingly, he's able to hold on to it as he goes to the ground. First down, 2:43 to go.
6:45 PM EST The first play after the two-minute warning has Jacobs in the shotgun and he throws a screen pass to Cedric Humes. After a 34-yard gain, the Steelers have the ball first-and-goal at the six-yard line.
6:48 PM EST On second-and-goal, Humes fumbles and Willie Colon recovers in the end zone ... except that with less than two minutes to go in the game, a ball fumbled forward and recovered in the end zone goes back to the spot of the fumble. Steelers ball, third down. Willie Colon angry! Willie Colon want touchdown! Cedric Humes will pay for insolence! You heard it here first.
6:51 PM EST Sweet Jesus what a great play! On third-and-goal, Jacobs floats a ball to the back corner of the end zone and Isaac Smolko makes a tippy-toed catch for the touchdown. Everybody's psyched except Jon Dekker.
Arizona 21 Pittsburgh 13
6:56 PM EST The Cardinals wisely run out the clock and that's that. The first preseason game is in the books.
Arizona 21 Pittsburgh 13
Well, Pittsburgh's 0-1, but who cares; no one got hurt, Ben took a hit and survived, and the rookies got plenty of work. And most important, Arizona got a win in their new stadium. Woohoo!