Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Morning Wake-Up Call: Arizona Cardinals Edition

Former Pitt star Larry Fitzgerald on his way to a score in SB XLIII
Expect some no-huddle offense from the Arizona Cardinals.

Word from Arizona is the Cardinals have been practicing the no-huddle these past two weeks in preparation for the Steelers.

Keep in mind the Cardinals have had an extra week -- the bye week -- to add new wrinkles to their sputtering offense, which has passed for just 169 and 171 yards, respectively, the past two games. Clearly, the Cardinals need to do something, and apparently it will be the no-huddle.

The Cardinals have to be thinking the fast-paced no-huddle in the withering Arizona heat will help them to wear out the Steelers' already depleted defensive line and linebacking corps.

The Steelers' defensive front seven is thin already. James Harrison, Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton are out. Hampton's backup, Chris Hoke, is listed as doubtful, which means there is only a 25 percent chance he will play.

Third-stringer Steve McLendon will make his first NFL start at nose tackle. McLendon, who played college ball at Troy University in Alabama, has been on and off the Steelers' roster since April 27, 2009, when the team signed him as an undrafted free agent. The first paragraph in his bio on is confusing but chronicles (apparently in reverse-chronological order) his dizzying pro career:
Signed to the Steelers active roster on October 30, 2010…re-signed to the practice squad on October 11, 2010…released on October 7, 2010…signed to the active roster on October 2, 2010…re-signed to the Steelers practice squad on September 21, 2010…was released on September 20, 2010…signed to the active roster on September 18, 2010…signed to the practice squad on September 6, 2010…was released on September 4, 2010…signed to the Steelers’ offseason roster on January 7, 2010… released by the Steelers on September 5, 2009, but was signed to the practice squad the very next day…released from the practice squad on November 25, 2009…signed to the practice squad on December 2, 2009…originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Steelers on April 27, 2009.
Give McLendon credit: He must be persistent to battle through all that. He must have something going for him, or the coaches wouldn't have kept him around.

Still, McLendon lacks prototypical size for a nose tackle. At 6-4, 280, he is taller and lighter than nose tackles, almost all of whom are well over 300 pounds. Maybe he moves well laterally. Let's hope he does well, but don't be surprised if the Cardinals run Beanie Wells right at him.

To buttress the depleted defensive front, the Steelers will activate rookie defensive end Corbin Bryant from the practice squad.

As for that no-huddle ...
When the Cardinals go to the no-huddle, it may not be a bad thing for the Steelers. The Cardinals' mistake-prone offense committed four turnovers their last game, vs. Minnesota.  With just two takeaways this season, the Steelers' defense is seriously overdue for some interceptions and fumble recoveries.

Still, the Steelers aren't so good this year that they can take this game for granted. In their two previous home games, the Cardinals beat Carolina by a touchdown and lost by four points to the New York Giants.

Coming off a bye week, desperate for a win and equipped with a seriously motivated coaching staff and team of ex-Steelers, the Cardinals could make things get hot for the Steelers tomorrow in the desert.The Steelers had better be prepared.

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