Snapshot: Steelers-Cardinals

An in-depth look at the Pittsburgh Steelers and their next opponent, the Arizona Cardinals:

Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2)


KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 9/30/07
TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
SERIES: 58th meeting. The Steelers lead the series, 32-22-3, that began in 1933, including a win in their last meeting, 28-15 in Pittsburgh in 2003. They also won on their last visit to Arizona in overtime in 1997. The two franchises joined forces for one season in 1944 to play as Card-Pitt during World War II. They went 0-10, the only season the Steelers never had a victory.

PREDICTION: Steelers 27-16

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals have been strong against top RBs Frank Gore, Shaun Alexander and Willis McGahee to start the season, so the Steelers' normally balanced offense could rest more on the arm of QB Ben Roethlisberger. Arizona can be beat downfield, but Roethlisberger likely will be without his most trusted pitch-and-catch partner, injured WR Hines Ward. ... Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was the Steelers' offensive coordinator and knows the personnel well. He wants the game plan to be centered on RB Edgerrin James, who was the last 100-yard rusher against the Steelers, 28 games ago in 2005 with Indianapolis. If the Cardinals decide an up-tempo attack is needed, QB Kurt Warner could well replace starter Matt Leinart.

KEY INJURIES: Steelers: Ward (sprained knee) appears doubtful; C Sean Mahan (sprained knee) should play. Cardinals: RT Levi Brown (sprained ankle) is limited and would be replaced by Elton Brown; C Al Johnson (sprained knee) is out at least one more game.

FAST FACTS: Roethlisberger has 9,082 career passing yards, passing Bobby Layne for fifth place in franchise history. ... The Cardinals have allowed a league-low two sacks this season.


--WR Hines Ward, who has a sprained right knee, did not practice again on Thursday. Mike Tomlin has called him "doubtful" but said he would not rule him out. Ward has missed just three games in his 10-year career.
--TE Matt Spaeth, who missed last week's game with a deep thigh bruise, did not practice Thursday. It's looking more likely that he will miss his second game. Spaeth, a rookie, leads the Steelers with two TD catches.
--C Sean Mahan, who has a sprained right knee, practiced for the first time Thursday. It appears he will start on Sunday.
--K Jeff Reed, who is nine of nine on field goal tries, has made 18 consecutive field goals on the road. His last miss away from home was Nov. 28, 2005 in Indianapolis.
--RB Willie Parker, who has four 100-yard games in a row and six in his past seven, leads the NFL in rushing with 368 yards. He has 3,250 in his career and needs 22 yards to move into eighth place on the Steelers' career list.

--NT Alan Branch has a large wrap on his fractured hand but has practiced all week. He is available to play, but coaches wanted to see how he practiced without being able to grab with one hand.
--RB Edgerrin James was the last runner to gain more than 100 yards against the Steelers. He did it in week 12 of the 2005 season. The Steelers have played 28 games since, including playoffs.
--WR Bryant Johnson is being placed in position to make critical plays, but he drops too many passes. Johnson had a big drop last week against Baltimore, and he had a few critical ones last year.
--WR Sean Morey is proving that his reputation for being an excellent special teams player is much deserved. Morey has blocked on punt this year and came close to another. Teammate Aaron Francisco blocked that one.
--TE Leonard Pope could be a key factor in Sunday's game. Pope hasn't been used much as a receiver this year, but he could find himself open against the Steelers' blitz packages.



Coach Mike Tomlin had to take quarterback Ben Roethlisberger aside this week and explain to him that he's not playing Ken Whisenhunt, he's playing the Arizona Cardinals.

Roethlisberger has taken subtle and not-so-subtle shots at his former offensive coordinator ever since he left the Steelers to take the head coaching job in Arizona.

The two had a frosty relationship and it's become apparent since they split. After acknowledging Tomlin spoke with him about it, Roethlisberger said he promised to put any ill feelings behind him and go out and play football Sunday.

"I am going to go out and do what I have to do to win the football game," Roethlisberger said. "I am not going to bash anything about the last year or any of the years. We won a Super Bowl and were very successful. Of course I am going to be happy with the system I am in now."

Yet a little later in the day, the quarterback could not help himself while he was on a conference call to the media in Arizona. They asked him if Whisenhunt was as tough on him as he appears to be on Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart.

"I know what Matt's going through," Roethlisberger answered, laughing.

Whisenhunt, told of that remark, replied, "Is that good or bad? I think Ben had a couple of perfect passer ratings and I think he won a Super Bowl, so if that's a product of it, then that's not bad."


There were positive developments on the Cardinals injury situation on Thursday.

Starting center Al Johnson practiced for the first time since suffering a sprained knee in the season opener. He and his replacement, Lyle Sendlein, each took snaps with the first unit.

Johnson was hobbling badly last week but has made considerable progress and could start Sunday against Pittsburgh, depending on how he feels Friday.

Receiver Anquan Boldin missed his second straight practice with a sore hip, but he reported that he felt much better Thursday than he did earlier this week. Boldin is the type of playing who can miss practice all week and still play on Sundays.

The news on right tackle Levi Brown wasn't as encouraging. He participated in part of Thursday's practice but sat out the team drills. He likely won't play and will be replaced by Elton Brown.

The one benefit to the injuries on the offensive line is that the club has developed some depth. Sendlein has started twice and played well. Elton Brown played right tackle last week for the first time since high school and help up.

Whisenhunt said he couldn't imagine a greater baptism by fire than playing a new position on the road against the Ravens.

Before last week, coaches likely would have moved Reggie Wells from guard to tackle to replace Levi Brown. But they feel comfortable now with Elton Brown.

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