Steelers vs. Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned About Arizona in 32-20 Loss

Cedric Hopkins@FieldandCourtContributor IOctober 23, 2011

Steelers vs. Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned About Arizona in 32-20 Loss

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    When the Pittsburgh Steelers got off the airplane in Phoenix to play the Arizona Cardinals, they brought with them the top-ranked pass defense in the league.

    In order to hold that honor, several components of Pittsburgh's defense work harmoniously with one another. They have a pounding pass rush combined with swarming defensive backs that make opposing quarterbacks pay for any little mistake.

    The Cardinals needed to execute well in order to have a chance to get to 2-4. After a Beanie Wells injury and a quarterback who couldn't find his groove, the Cardinals fell to a disappointing 1-5.

    With the Baltimore Ravens on deck for next week's game, the Cardinals are going to have to learn from this week's mistakes.

    Whether or not the Cardinals will take this as an opportunity to learn is up to them.

    In any event, here are five things the Cardinals taught us about themselves this week.

Quarterback Kevin Kolb Is King of Inconsistency

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    This season, Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb has been inconsistent in his play. Some of his throws are highlight-reel material, while others are better left forgotten in the minds of fans.

    Today was no different.

    On Arizona’s first possession, Kolb threw a pick to Ryan Clark that set up the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first touchdown.

    Other than a few dink-and-dunk passes throughout the game, Kolb could not connect with his receivers. It’s like the coaching staff gave different playbooks to Kolb and his wide receivers. Even when they ran the correct routes, no one could catch his passes.

    Not even Troy Polamalu.

    Kolb threw a perfect spiral to Polamalu, and the sure-handed All-Pro safety couldn’t hang on to it.

    Perhaps there’s something in Kolb’s sweat that seeps into the ball that makes it uncatchable.

    Well, it’s got to be something.

Cardinals Offensive Line Is a Swinging Gate

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    It’s hard to tell if Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb is supposed to be taking three- or five-step drop-backs. As soon as the ball is snapped, he’s running and running and running.

    There hasn’t been a shining star among any of the Cardinal offensive linemen. Levi Brown, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in the 2007 draft, continues to disappoint.

    Brown was rated the second worst offensive tackle in the entire NFL in 2010, according to

    Against the Steelers, Brown and company kept up their image of being one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.

    The offensive line will have to give Kolb more protection in the pocket in order for Arizona to have a chance at winning any of its remaining games.

    Next week's tilt against the Baltimore Ravens will be another monster test for this group.

Cardinals Secondary Is Arizona's Achilles Heel

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    Patrick Peterson must have been wearing a Steelers jersey under his Arizona jersey, or maybe Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are on his fantasy team.

    Peterson was doing everything in his power to help Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers move the ball through the air.

    During the final plays of the second quarter, Peterson was called for back-to-back penalties that gave the Steelers great field position.

    Peterson wasn’t the only “defensive” player helping out the Steelers.

    Arizona defensive back Richard Marshall helped Mike Wallace catch what will probably be his longest touchdown of the year.

    Marshall made some type of strange bunny-hop move toward Wallace, at which time Wallace promptly strode past Marshall and hauled in a 95-yard pass from Roethlisberger.

    The only thing that stopped Pittsburgh’s passing attack was a few misfires from Roethlisberger. The Steelers wide receivers were often seen behind the Cardinals defensive backs and just missing passes that would’ve gone for touchdowns.

    Granted, the desert birds were without Kerry Rhodes (foot) and Greg Toler, but the Cardinals’ passing defense has been circling the drain all year. 

    Without the needed improvement in the secondary, Arizona will struggle to compete each week.

Arizona Defensive Line Providing Proper Pressure

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    The only group that received a gold-star sticker for Arizona was the defensive front seven. The Cardinals front seven was able to apply pressure to Big Ben throughout the game.

    Almost every passing play, the defensive line broke through Pittsburgh’s protection and was chasing after Roethlisberger.

    The problem for Arizona is that Big Ben has perfected the art of extending plays. He shakes off linebackers, dances around linemen and then finds one of his targets who has run at least two alternate routes.

    It’s almost unfair. 

    The front seven did its part—now it's up to the secondary to step up.

Beanie Wells Is the Heart of the Cardinal Offense

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    Arizona running back Beanie Wells left the game with what is being called a sprained knee. The sprain is to Wells’ right knee—the knee that was surgically repaired last year.

    Prior to Wells’ departure, the Steelers defense was honest, keeping at least seven men in the box, sometimes eight. After Wells left the game, Pittsburgh was dropping seven defensive players into coverage.

    Without Wells in the backfield, Pittsburgh could focus on the pass and shut down the Cardinal offense.

    Hopefully, Wells’ knee isn’t hurt too badly and he’ll be able to get back on the field and keep defenses honest again.

    They’ll need it against the Baltimore Ravens next week.