September 30, 2007
Coach Whiz and Coach Grimm Get Their Revenge
Cardinals 21 – Steelers 14
After being passed over for the Steelers’ Head Coaching job during the 2006 offseason and assuming their roles as the Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach of the Arizona Cardinals, I’m pretty sure that former Steeler Assistants Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm had September 30, 2007 circled on their calendars. On that day, Whisenhunt and Grimm’s team would face off against the team and the franchise that had spurned them that past offseason, and they would be looking to beat the undefeated (3-0) Steelers in Phoenix that same afternoon.
Mike Tomlin’s team looked to dispatch the (1-2) upstart Cardinals and probably hoped that Whisenhunt and Grimm wouldn’t be at too much of an advantage when it came to creating matchups and having an extensive knowledge of the Steelers’ personnel (especially on Offense). I watched the game with my Mom that day and Whisenhunt and Grimm’s knowledge of the Steelers was probably the thing that made us the most nervous about the game.
Whisenhunt essentially built Roethlisberger into the QB that he was at that point, and knew his tendencies. Furthermore, Grimm knew everything there was to know about all of the Steelers’ O-Linemen playing that day because each of them had played numerous seasons if not their entire careers under Grimm’s tutelage.
Yet whatever advantage the Cardinals had, the Steelers certainly weren’t paying attention, and they were the ones to score first in the game. After both teams couldn’t get anything going early in the 1st Quarter, the Steelers drew first blood on a stupendous pass play from Big Ben to Sansmokio Holmes on 3rd and 26 that put the Steelers ahead 7-0. The 43 yard bomb was perfectly executed, and really illustrated why Sansmokio was a threat to score on any route from anywhere on the field. You could really tell that after a season under their belts together that the Roethlisberger to Holmes combination was something special.
The Steelers’ Defense continued their dominant play the rest of the Half and really stuck it to Arizona’s QB Matt Leinart. The Half ended with the Steelers ahead 7-0, but still a feeling of uneasiness creeped over me. I don’t know what it is, but every time I watch and have watched the Steelers play a road game and fail to put a less than worthy opponent away I always fear that the home crowd will help rally their team to play better and get them right back into the game. My Mom and I left the restaurant where we were at to watch the rest of the game at home and hoped that the Steelers could finish off Ken and his Cardinals. Whisenhunt however had a few tricks up his sleeve when the 2nd Half started.
After the Steelers had to punt on their opening possession of the 3rd Quarter, Coach Ken inserted his veteran QB Kurt Warner who carved up the Steelers’ Defense like a Thanksgiving turkey and the Cardinals put together a 9 play 70 yard drive that ended with a 6 yard TD pass from Warner to WR Jerheme Urban and suddenly the Cardinals had tied the game that they were completely out of at Half Time halfway through the 3rd Quarter.
After the Steelers had to punt, Warner came back out looking to give the Cardinals the lead. He actually almost screwed Arizona over on one play though. Warner failed to take in a high snap (although it was almost impossible for him to get) and Steeler OLB James Harrison recovered the ball at the Arizona 4 yard line. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they couldn’t take advantage and Big Ben shit the bed on a 3rd and Goal play from the 2 yard line.
After two runs by Parker netted 2 yards, Ben went to the air and was picked off by Cardinals Safety Adrian Wilson! It was freaking ridiculous. The Steelers could have won the game on one play or at least gotten 3 out of the cake easy field position. But Ben threw a costly Red Zone INT and the Steelers got nothing.
Thankfully though the Steelers’ Defense held and the Offense got the ball back. Alas, Ben and his boys couldn’t sustain a drive and Rookie Punter Daniel Sepulveda boomed a punt which the Steelers covered ok, but FB Carey Davis was flagged for being ineligibly downfield and Pittsburgh had to re-kick. That’s when the dumpster fire really started, because that’s when the Steelers’ pathetic punt coverage unit of 2007 reared its ugly head. Sepulveda’s kick sailed to the Cardinals’ PR Steve Breaston who took the punt all the way to the house. 73 yards later and the Steelers were down 14-7!
I’ll never forget turning away from my T.V. in disgust because at that point I knew that the Steelers’ chances were almost nonexistent. They had let a team that was playing for more than themselves and the Coaching Staff looking for revenge take advantage of their lackadaisical play and it cost them dearly. Regardless, I still watched the rest of the game and it didn’t get any better from my perspective.
After Pittsburgh’s next drive netted zero points, Leinart led the Cardinals on a 13 play 82 yard march that took 7:19 off the clock and resembled one of the patented Whisenhunt clock devouring drives that he directed so many times when he was the O.C. of the Steelers. Don’t you just miss those days, Steeler Nation. Anyways, after Edgerrin James’ 2 yard TD run put the Cardinals up 21-7 with just over 4 minutes to play, all looked lost for the Steelers. Yet Ben didn’t quit and he pulled the Steelers right back into the game.
Ben was at his 2 minute best and led the Steelers on a 9 play 92 yard drive that ended in with a 7 yard TD pass to Sansmokio once again. The Steelers were down 21-14 with just under 2 minutes to play and needed an onside kick to have any sort of chance. Unfortunately, the kick failed and while the Steelers did regain possession once again Ben was picked off by Ralph Brown and the game ended by the final score of 21-14.
I was so pissed after this game. This was really the game that let me know that the 2007 season would not be as awesome as I had previously hoped after the Steelers’ impressive 3-0 start. They had let a game on the road that they totally should have won against a mediocre opponent slip away. Granted, the opposition had quite a bit to play for. Yet there was no excuse for such a pathetic loss like that where even the Steelers’ “C- game” would have netted a victory.