Steelers vs. Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned About Pittsburgh in 32-20 Win

Nick DeWittAnalyst IOctober 23, 2011

Steelers vs. Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned About Pittsburgh in 32-20 Win

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    After a convincing and relatively dominant 32-20 win over the struggling Arizona Cardinals, we've learned a little bit more about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their ability to march all the way back to the Super Bowl in 2011.

    As the Steelers now prepare for a big showdown at Heinz Field against the New England Patriots, here's a look inside the game at five things we learned about Pittsburgh.

Big Ben Is Back on Track

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    Lesson

    Ben Roethlisberger, who started this season with a three-interception performance in Baltimore, has gotten himself back on track and looks a lot more like the quarterback who's taken Pittsburgh to three Super Bowls since 2004.

    Analysis

    Last week, I had my doubts. Roethlisberger looked pretty awful during the second half. This week, however, I'm sold once again on Roethlisberger being on his way to a career year.

    Why?

    His statistics are in line. He also showed a lot of toughness this week. He was being hit regularly and was still able to throw for over 300 yards, escape collapsing pockets and get the ball down field to his receivers as they got open.

    This was probably the second time this year that I've really thought Roethlisberger was on track. The other time was against Tennessee. This week, he and the offense seemed in a great groove despite not getting a ton from the running game.

Lamarr Woodley Has Been Awakened

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    Lesson

    Lamarr Woodley, who was rewarded with a huge contract extension just before the regular season opened, is now finally living up to the numbers in that contract and is on his way to having perhaps his best season.

    Analysis

    OK, so it was just another slow start for Woodley after all. I know that I lambasted him a few weeks back for not living up to his new deal.

    He's living up to it now, and he's going to be in the Pro Bowl conversation for sure.

    Woodley added two more sacks to his season total (seven) and had a third negated when Kevin Kolb foolishly threw away the ball in his own end zone. He's been a beast even though he's playing without James Harrison on the opposite side.

    Woodley is a terror when he's on his game, and he's been locked in for weeks now. He's on pace to top his career numbers this season and could be playing the best of any outside linebacker in the NFL right now.

The Running Game Is Still a Mixed Bag

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    Lesson

    The Steelers rushing attack, which has seen its good and bad spots this season, once again has shown that it cannot be depended upon.

    Analysis

    Rashard Mendenhall is doing himself no favors. His backups showed him up big time right after he blew past Jacksonville with a 146-yard performance.

    Mendenhall just couldn't get it going consistently and didn't break any of the long runs he's usually good at getting once or twice a game. Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore seemed better suited to running the ball today, as they both were able to gut out some yards after contact.

    I'm not sure what to make of this running game. Part of me says that Isaac Redman should get the start and Mendenhall should be in for specific packages. Either his injury is still bothering him some, or he just isn't able to generate yards consistently.

    Part of me says that they need to stick with Mendenhall and just realize that they are more of a passing team than they used to be. It's a tough call.

The Steelers Can Play a Complete Game

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    Lesson

    After having no complete game efforts by both sides of the ball, the Steelers exploded all over the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon and now have showed that they can play a full 60 minutes in each phase.

    Analysis

    Finally. It's about time.

    The offense was moving the football all day long. The defense wasn't spectacular, but managed to step up and make some big stops and clamped down when it counted. There was never a real feeling of panic like last week, and there was never a huge vacuum of production like there had been against Houston or Seattle.

    This was a complete game.

    The Steelers have needed one of these games. It couldn't come at a better time. Heck, even Shaun Suisham was good today.

    Pittsburgh needs to build on this, however. They've got some tough outs coming up, so playing more complete games is necessary. About the only major complaints you could make today were that the running game was off track and that Troy Polamalu was missing a lot when he was on the field.

They're Ready for the Big Guns Now

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    Lesson

    The Steelers are finally ready to face AFC heavyweights New England and Baltimore and actually stand a good chance of competing with an possibly beating the Patriots and Ravens.

    Analysis

    A week ago, I was scared of these two games. A team that cannot finish off a team like Jacksonville, bereft of talent and drive, should not be expected to show up when the Patriots or Ravens come into town.

    If we saw one thing on Sunday, it was that this team is ready to play the games now. They've shaken off whatever hangover or funk they've been in. They're a force to be reckoned with once again.

    The Patriots come to Heinz Field next week with a better record but a very leaky defense that hasn't impressed. Tom Brady has been human this year even as the offense has balanced around him. The Steelers are a good match with their improving defense and explosive passing game.

    The Ravens come to visit after that and will be looking to really take full control of the AFC North. The problem is that the Steelers are going to be angry over Week 1's result and looking for a reason to beat up on Baltimore once again. That game actually looks tougher than the one next week.

    It doesn't matter. If the Steelers show up the next two weeks like they did this week, they'll be a ready, worthy opponent.