Game SnapShot: Arizona at Pittsburgh

<b>Game SnapShot</b><br> <b>KICKOFF:</b> Sunday, 1:00 ET<br> <b>GAMEDATE:</b> 11/09/03<br> <b>SURFACE:</b> Grass<br> <b>TV:</b> FOX, Ron Pitts, Tim Ryan<br> <b>SERIES:</b> 57th meeting between two clubs who combined their rosters in 1944 to form the wartime club known as Card-Pitt. The Steelers lead the series, 31-22-3. This will be the first visit by the Arizona Cardinals in Pittsburgh. They last played in Pittsburgh in 1985, when they were the St. Louis Cardinals.

2003 RANKINGS: Cardinals: offense 26th (18th rush, 22nd pass); defense 13th (11th rush, 16th pass). Steelers: offense 19th (29th rush, 9th pass); defense 2nd (4th rush, 6th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Cardinals have had a lot of success the past two games behind a power running game led by a massive offense line blocking well for RB Marcel Shipp. But they haven't faced a run defense as strong as Pittsburgh's and if Shipp doesn't provide a running threat, QB Jeff Blake has been prone to forcing passes this season. Steelers QB Tommy Maddox played well in the fourth quarter last week and will have success downfield against the Cardinals' sub-par corners unless Arizona's improving defensive line can apply consistent pressure. The Cardinals have not won a road game this season, and they will have to deal with November conditions in Pittsburgh.

FAST FACTS:
Cardinals: They have lost eight consecutive road games. ... WR Anquan Boldin is on pace for an NFL rookie record 96 receptions. ... Shipp is the team's first player to record consecutive 100-yard rushing games since Johnny Johnson in 1992. Steelers: LB Jason Gildon needs one sack to pass L.C. Greenwood (73.5) for the most in franchise history. ... The 2-6 start ties for the teams worst in the past 34 years.

PREDICTED SCORE:
Steelers 20, Cardinals 13

PERSONNEL NEWS
Cardinals:

-- RB Emmitt Smith (shoulder) is out again this week, and possibly for the following game, but he said when he is ready to return there is enough room for Marcel Shipp and him. Smith was the starter before suffering the injury, but Shipp has thrived as the starter while Smith has been out.

-- K Bill Gramatica (back) will miss another game, his fourth, because of a herniated disk. Tim Duncan, with whom Gramatica had down-to-the-wire battles in training camp each of the past two years, has been a solid replacement.

-- WR Jason McAddley (hamstring), who has been out for six weeks, will miss another game.

-- LB Gerald Hayes (shoulder), a backup, is out.

-- DE Fred Wakefield (wrist) is practicing but he lost his left-side starting job to Dennis Johnson.

-- FB James Hodgins (ankle) has done little in practice but is expected to play. The only other FB on the roster is a part time one, Steve Bush, whose primary job is backup TE.

Steelers:

-- CB Ike Taylor, a rookie fourth-round draft pick, has been promoted to the nickel and dime defenses. He has returned kicks but played only two snaps on defense, both in the opener.

-- OT Oliver Ross will make his second consecutive start, on the right side, for the first time since 2001, when he started seven games. Ross replaced Todd Fordham, who was ineffective.

-- WR Plaxico Burress returned to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday's drills with a bruised right shoulder. Burress caught a TD pass in the second game of the season and has not caught another. He had seven last season.

-- LB Jason Gildon needs one sack to surpass L.C. Greenwood (73.5) for the most sacks in Steelers history. Gildon has just two sacks through the first half of the season, putting him on pace for his fewest since he had three in 1995, when he was in his second season as a backup.

-- TE Jay Riemersma (sprained knee) has been practicing all week and likely will suit up for Sunday's game against Arizona. He has missed the past two games and three of the past four and is officially listed as questionable.

INSIDE THE CAMPS
Cardinals:


Cameron Spikes was viewed an insurance policy when he was signed to a two-year contract as a free agent in March.

He has been a good one to have. A veteran with some starting experience with multi-position capability along the offensive line is a valuable commodity on tight NFL rosters, roles he filled with St. Louis and Houston.

Now, the Cardinals cannot get Spikes off the field. He has taken every snap at left guard this season on a line that is developing into a formidable force. Marcel Shipp has rushed for 165 and 141 yards in the past two games, both wins.

Spikes is a major reason for that.

Spikes was moved onto the first team during preseason when the league announced that Frank Garcia, another free-agent pickup in the off season who was the projected starter at left guard, would be suspended for the first four games for violating the league's Ephedrine policy.

But when Garcia's four games were up, Spikes was entrenched and Garcia has not been able to move him out.

Spikes, who turned 27 Thursday, is more physically imposing than Garcia. At 6-feet-4, 325 pounds, Spikes is two inches taller and 35 pounds heavier, in keeping with the Cardinals' preference for size up front. Spikes joins a sizable line that includes left tackle L.J. Shelton (6-6, 335), right guard Leonard Davis (6-6, 384), and right tackle Anthony Clement (6-8, 333).

Spikes moved into the spot vacated by the only "shrimp" of the group, Pete Kendall (6-5, 279).

Kendall is enjoying a successful move from guard to center, similar to the move made two years ago by Jeff Hartings, of Sunday's foe, Pittsburgh.

Davis has recovered from a fractured hand that wiped out his preseason, followed by an ankle injury that hobbled him through the first month of the season. Kendall is comfortable and thriving at his new position. Spikes now is familiar with the Cardinals' system and personnel.

With that inner three now functioning at maximum capacity, it is no mystery why Shipp suddenly has found more room to run.

Steelers:

The Pittsburgh Steelers still do not think they are out of the race for a playoff berth despite their five-game losing streak and 2-6 record. They believe 8-8 might be good enough to win the AFC North and they think they can do it.

It has only been done once in the history of the NFL since the 1970 merger and the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals did that. No other team has started 2-6 and made the playoffs. The Bengals started 1-6, then won seven straight to win the first AFC Central Division at 8-6. No one has done it in a 16-game schedule.

"There is a history that we need to create ourselves," coach Bill Cowher said. "The biggest thing right now is for us to take it one game at a time and not worry about anything other than that."

The Steelers trail Baltimore (5-3) by three games, but own a victory over the Ravens. The team's play in the final game of the season in Baltimore and if the Steelers can pull within a game of them entering that contest, a victory would give them the tiebreaker. However, that is assuming Cleveland and Cincinnati, both 3-5, do not have a better record.

The Steelers, though, are not thinking about the playoffs anymore. They are thinking about one thing, the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. They need to win one game, which they have not done since Sept. 21.

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