Steelers Too Much For Cards, 32-20; Changes Could Be Coming; Wells Injury Update

The losing streak is now five as Arizona suffers from penalties and big plays.

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Cardinals Whisenhunt Says Change Is Coming, Doesn't Rule Out Benching Kolb

We heard it after the game on Sunday and Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt repeated it Monday: He's looking for guys that can make plays and every position is under scrutiny. Many feel that Kevin Kolb would be excluded from that but Whisenhunt didn't rule out a change when asked specifically about the quarterback position.

"The quarterback is obviously the focal point of a lot of things when you don't win games -- when you lose five games in a row. Like I said, every position is going to be looked at from that standpoint," he said.

Most likely, that's just a message being sent and not indication that Kolb is going to get benched. At the same time, Whisenhunt is certainly ratcheting up the pressure on Kolb and making it clear that missing plays is not acceptable. 

Whisenhunt repeatedly mentioned the missed throw to TE Rob Housler that should have gone for a touchdown. It was very similar to a play Kolb missed against Minnesota.

"Looking at our football team, we're looking for guys that can make plays and if we have to make changes across the board at different positions in order to do that, that's what we're going to do."

As has been much discussed, Kolb's got to get better at his footwork to allow him to stand in the pocket and make some of the throws. Whisenhunt stressed that he has made some big plays but the missed throw to Housler was purely footwork. 

In case you are wondering what a change would look like, John Skelton has regained the number two quarterback job over Rich Bartel but Whiz says he's comfortable with either guy.

Barring injury, however, we still think it is highly unlikely that a move would be made any time soon.

The public pressure on Kolb is interesting, however, given how much pressure Kevin already puts on himself. Perhaps this is all more about deflecting attention or giving fans the impression that the coaching staff is "doing" something.

More likely candidates for change are outside linebackers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield who both played well on Sunday according to their coach, "Those guys are getting a better feel for our defense and we're going to integrate them more."

Other Notes:

  • Unblocked rushers on the interception and safety: The first one was an interior line mistake. The second was a scheme thing. Gave a different front. Stayed in base defense. Got to get rid of the ball in that situation.
  • "A good way to assess our team right now is: other teams are making us pay for our mistakes and we're not making other teams pay for their mistakes," Whisenhunt said.  Example, they complete 95-yard pass to Mike Wallace. Kolb not making pass to Rob Housler.
  • Rashad Johnson did ok. Solid performance.
  • Stewart Bradley getting better and getting used to rushing the quarterback which is new for him. He's improving.
  • "I think we judge progress of an offensive line by wins and losses. Ask anyone who knows anything about football, games are won or lost in the trenches. No, I don't think we're doing as good as we could because we're not winning," Lyle Sendlien on the offensive line's performance
  • "Absolutely, I thought we were just getting ready to get a groove going in there. I was feeling pretty good. We were starting to get comfortable with the pressure they were bringing and we were picking everything up. Lanes were just starting to open up. It sucked," Beanie Wells on the running game before he got injured. Wells wouldn't say much about the injury or his timetable. The plan before the injury was definitely to run the ball more and try and wear down the injury-riddled defense front for the Steelers.

For more on the Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds blog.


Beanie Wells Injury Update: Cardinals Dodge Bullet, No Structural Damage

The Arizona Cardinals have had their fair share of bad news this season and with the way this team is playing, they can't afford to lose any more important pieces. Running back Beanie Wells left Sunday's game in the second quarter with what was described at the time as a right knee sprain. The team, however, initially thought it could be season-ending but the report on Monday is much more favorable.

Head coach Ken Whisenhunt announced that Wells suffered swelling in the knee and that it "locked up" after he took a hit in the game. The examination revealed no structural damage and surgery is not required.

The injury was reported as a bone bruise with 1-2 week prognosis by the NFL Network. Whisenhunt wouldn't comment on the specifics or timetable.

"I don't know if bone bruise is accurate. I don't want to get into specifics of what it is. I don't want to put a time frame on it because I don't want to set the young man up for failure," Whisenhunt said.

The news for former Arizona Cardinals running back Tim Hightower (now with Washington) is not so good. It's believed that Hightower suffered a torn ACL and will be out for the season.


Cardinals Vs. Steelers, Monday Morning Quarterback: It's Not Good, But It's Not All Bad

The Arizona Cardinals lost another game thanks to mistakes that cost the team. There were positive signs, however, including a better performance from Kevin Kolb and three young players who stood out.


Cardinals Suffer Fifth-Straight Loss, Whisenhunt Hints At Personnel Changes

When you start the NFL season 1-5 there's a lot going wrong. It's easy and obvious to point the finger at quarterback Kevin Kolb but he's clearly not the only problem on the football field for the Arizona Cardinals. For his part, Kolb thought he played better in this game and sees progress in some aspects of the offense. At the same time, he knows he can't miss open receivers and needs to get better for this team to turn the corner.

Kolb is not going anywhere, however. It's almost impossible to envision a situation where the team decides to bench him in favor of back ups John Skelton or Rich Bartel barring injury. After trading so much to get him and signing him to a big contract, the Cardinals have no choice but to ride it out and hope that Kolb improves. 

That doesn't mean everyone else on the team should feel secure about their jobs. A frustrated Ken Whisenhunt suggested that changes could be coming.

"We've got to look at everything we're doing and look at the guys that we're doing it with. I think it's not just one position, it's a number of positions. That's what we're trying to do to put our best guys in there to give us a chance to win," he said after the game.

One area to watch closely is the outside linebackers. Veterans Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, both 34, have not made many plays this season and making plays, according to Whisenhunt, is what's needed most. The pair have combined for just 2 sacks and 19 tackles on the season. 

Backing up these aging warriors are two young guns in O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho who've combined for 1.5 sacks in very limited playing time. The two played together to start the fourth quarter and were able to at least make life uncomfortable for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Acho's sack in the red zone helped the defense prevent a touchdown.

"We're just waiting our turn," Schofield said. "When the coaches give us time like that in games it's very valuable for the learning experience and just to show them we can get it done."

Other than perhaps playing rookies David Carter at nose tackle, DeMarco Sampson more at wide receiver and TE Rob Housler, there's not a lot of other positions where the Cardinals have the depth to make changes aside from those outside linebackers.

ILB Daryl Washington, himself only a second-year player who's already emerging as one of the brightest talents on the team, recognizes where things are headed.

"Those young guys, Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield, have bright futures ahead of them," Washington said. "These guys will continue learning and communicating. It's good for us to get in the game and work together because we're the future."

He's absolutely right. Washington, Acho and Schofield are the future and at 1-5, it's time to start giving them more opportunities to play together.


Cardinals Vs. Steelers Inactive List: No Todd Heap, Steelers Defense Thin

The Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers are just over an hour away from kicking off a game that many people suggest will be an upset. The 1-4 Cardinals play well at home and are desperate while the 4-2 Steelers have been inconsistent on the road and are banged up.

The Cardinals have one notable injury, TE Todd Heap is on the inactive list thanks to a hamstring injury. All week he was called a game-time decision. Apparently, the decision was no.

RB Chester Taylor hasn't done much since coming to the Cardinals and won't be active today. Young Alfonso Smith has taken his spot as the back-up to Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling. Also moving up in the depth chart is QB John Skelton who has been elevated to the number two spot and push Rich Bartel to the inactive list.

Other inactives for the Cardinals include: S Kerry Rhodes (foot), T D'Anthony Batiste, TE Jim Dray (pectoral), DE Ronald Talley. With Dray and Heap inactive, the Cardinals will rely entirely on Jeff King and Rob Housler. If Kolb is on form, this could be a big day for rookie Housler.

The active list includes recently acquired safety, Sean Considine to provide depth at a position where the Cardinals are weak. Rhodes is out several weeks with a broken foot which moves Rashad Johnson into the starting lineup with Hamza Abullah also on the bench playing behind Adrian Wilson.

For the Steelers, the big blows come to the front line of their defense which was already 20th in the league in stopping the run. OLB James Harrison is out along with his backup Jason Worilds. Starting NT Casey Hampton and his backup on the depth chart, Chris Hoke are both inactive as well. 

Making matters worse for the Steelers, starting DE Aaron Smith is on the IR due to a neck injury. That's a total of three starters and two backups missing from the Pittsburgh front seven.

Also inactive for the Steelers are: QB Dennis Dixon, RB Jonathan Dwyer, and C/G Dough Legursky.

The Cardinals need to take advantage of the Steelers injuries in the front seven and run the ball hard in order the establish the pass and take some pressure off QB Kevin Kolb.


Cardinals Vs. Steelers: Is It Game Time Yet? And Todd Heap Injury Update

After 10 days with no games, there's little else the Arizona Cardinals have left to say. That's in large part because there's little else the media can think of to ask. For example, Ken Whisenhunt was asked if there's any different vibe playing against a team like Pittsburgh. 

"That (the fact they are a good football team) coupled with the fact that we played them a couple of years ago in the Super Bowl adds a little bit more excitement to this game. No question," Whisenhunt revealed. 

How is it to keep trying to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball?

"It's always been that way when you've got a good football player. No matter what's going on you're trying to find ways to get him the ball."

Anything different about Steelers defense?

"No. They're pretty good. You look at them statistically and they are a pretty good football team. The thing that's impressive about them is they do it with different guys. They've had some guys that have been injured and some guys have stepped up. I don't notice anything different."

For the record, the Steelers defense is second in the NFL against the pass, 20th against the run and fifth overall in opponent's scoring.

Other notes:

  • Adrian Wilson feel behind in training camp with the arm injury and he's a lot more comfortable now. He doesn't seem to be impacted at all by the injury.
  • The Steelers running game relies on big backs who are hard to tackle. "They do a good job of extending the runs. A lot of times you think they're bottled up and they stay and they work their feet and they find a hole and they get through it."
  • The Cardinals are 23-31-3 against the Steelers and 15-10-2 at home. Their last win came on September 30, 2007. Their first meeting was September 27, 1933 (Steelers won, 14-13).
  • Todd Heap (hamstring) is still a game-time decision. If he can't go, there's a lot of confidence in rookie Rob Housler although he's still a young player (being a rookie and all).

Cardinals Vs. Steelers: Fitzgerald Sees Tough Game Ahead

The Arizona Cardinals have not won a football game in 36 days. Not since the Cardinals defeated the Panthers 28-21 in Week 1 have the Redbirds left the field victorious. They currently sit 3.5 games behind the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West and this week the Cardinals play the reigning AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  

The team knows that it faces an uphill battle this week against the 4-2 Steelers. "You know what to expect with those guys (the Steelers), it's going to be a tough fought, hard fought football game," said Larry Fitzgerald.  

Fitzgerald may have a long day on Sunday against Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, and Steelers pass defense which ranks number two in the NFL. "Ike Taylor is one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL, we always have good battles so I'm looking foreword to that challenge," said Fitzgerald.

Pittsburgh ranks in the top ten in the NFL in passing offense, rushing offense, total offense, total defense, and pass defense. With the Cardinals coming off a bye, the team looks to focus on fixing its problems rather than looking too much into the Steelers. The team had a players only meeting and then had four days off to refocus themselves.  

"We have to prepare ourselves, later in the week we will focus on the Steelers," said Beanie Wells. Wells has scored four touchdowns in his last two games and might have a chance for a big game as the Steelers come into the contest with the 21st ranked rushing defense in the NFL.  

 "It's a little bit easier for the coaches, you don't have the time constraints because you got to spend some time last week, (preparing)" said Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt when asked about how the bye week changes the coaches' preparation for the game.  

The Cardinals have had success against the Steelers at home in the past, beating the Steelers 21-14 at University of Phoenix Stadium in 2007.  

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