Receivers flourish in Steelers' win over Cardinals
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Emmanuel Sanders left the visiting locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium sporting a bow tie the same color as his pinstriped lavender shirt. He also wore a burgundy sports coat and gray dress pants.
The colorful look is something you'd expect from any one of the three Steelers wideouts who call themselves the "Bugatti Boys." The ensemble might be the last thing you'd ever find in tight end Heath Miller's closet.
"I think we all probably have a lot more in common than you would think," Miller said. "It's a fun group to be around."
The wideouts that associate themselves with sleek sports cars and the tight end whose personality tends to be on the conservative side had at least one thing in common Sunday: They starred in the passing display that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger unleashed in front of his former offensive coordinator.
Roethlisberger completed 26 of 39 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns as the Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals, 32-20, to extend their winning streak to three games.
Roethlisberger completed passes to seven different receivers, helping the Steelers beat the Cardinals and coach Ken Whisenhunt, the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh from 2004-06.
Fifteen of Roethlisberger's completions went to Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Sanders — the self-proclaimed "Bugatti Boys."
Wallace and Brown each went over 100 yards receiving — Wallace's 95-yard touchdown reception was the longest pass play in Steelers history — and a passing game that sputtered in the second half a week earlier hummed in the desert.
The Steelers (5-2) set up a showdown Sunday at Heinz Field. The New England Patriots, 5-1 and fresh off a bye week, visit for a 4:15 p.m. game. The Steelers haven't had much luck against Tom Brady, having beaten the perennial All-Pro just one time (2004).
These Steelers, however, may be better equipped to engage Brady in a shootout.
That is especially true if Roethlisberger and his receivers are as in sync against the Patriots as they were against Arizona (1-5).
In addition to the exploits of Wallace and Brown, Miller and Sanders combined for nine catches for 105 yards.
Five of their catches came on an 11-play, 80-yard drive in the third quarter, one that Roethlisberger orchestrated after the Cardinals had trimmed the Steelers' lead to 17-14.
Sanders capped one of the most important drives of the season when he caught a 4-yard pass from Roethlisberger in the back of the end zone.
The Cardinals (1-5) would get no closer in front of a crowd that may have been split, as far as rooting interest.
"It's just fun to get everyone involved," Roethlisberger said after posting a sterling passer rating of 121.8. "I still don't think we're there (as a passing offense). I think we're getting closer. I still think there's some things we can do to get better, but that's good. We don't want to be just clicking at 100 percent right now. We want to be winning games and moving forward."
The Steelers' passing game in not all that stood out yesterday.
An early interception by Ryan Clark set up the Steelers' first touchdown. Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley continued his recent rampage, twice sacking Kevin Kolb and forcing the Cardinals quarterback into a costly intentional grounding penalty. And kicker Shaun Suisham was perfect on three field goal attempts.
"It's important that we work in concert as units," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "when things are going well to stack positive things on positive things. And likewise when things go south, it is important that you pick each other back up. We feel like we can still improve, and that's good."
Indeed, Sanders didn't just leave Arizona in a custom-made suit yesterday. The second-year player, who is not lacking for confidence, also exited the stadium with the belief that what had just transpired may be only the beginning for the passing game.
"We can be explosive," Sanders said.
Steelers vs. Cardinals 10/23/11
The Steelers defeat Arizona, 32-20, at University of Phoenix Stadium.