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Friday Five: Cardinals At Steelers


A glance at the top storylines for the Cardinals-Steelers game Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh:

**Run like you've been running

The Cardinals are now third in the NFL in rushing, and first in yards per carry. That's what happens when you are coming off a 187-yard performance and 7.5 yards per carry as a team – and that includes three minus-one kneeldowns at the end of the game. The Steelers have a better defense than the Lions, but the Cards have such a great trio right now with Ellington, Johnson and Johnson and are using them so effectively, it's provided a perfect balance with Carson Palmer and his pass catchers.

Make sure the Bell doesn't toll for thee

With Ben Roethlisberger down and Mike Vick playing quarterback for the Steelers, Pittsburgh's excellent passing game has been struggling. So has star wide receiver Antonio Brown. It puts more pressure on running back Le'Veon Bell, who is one of the best running backs in the league. The Steelers are leaning more on Bell, but because the Cardinals don't have to worry as much about Brown and the passing game, more attention can be given to the defense of Bell. That's important, because Bell is the kind of guy who can tear a defense up.

Contain Vick's quicks

Bruce Arians noted that he doesn't need sacks as much as pressures, because if the Cardinals get a sack, it means his talented secondary can't get an interception. That may be even more crucial against Vick, and not just because Vick has a predilection of throwing picks. Vick certainly has a way of getting sacked, because he'll try to run around to extend a play. But even 15 years into his NFL career he is still dangerous with his legs. The Cardinals must be able to contain him and not necessarily sell out for a sack that could cost them a long Vick scramble.

Blitzburgh concerns

The Steelers already have 16 sacks this season, and if there is one thing the Cards have talked about it is keeping Palmer from getting hit fewer times. That's a little easier to do with the threat of the run the Cards now have on display. But that still means holding up with communication – and hopefully, guard Mike Iupati's back issue won't be an issue.

A week away … now finish it

The Cardinals won in Detroit. They spent a week in West Virginia practicing. Now they head to Pittsburgh to close the week. The Cardinals have done the week-away thing twice in recent times. In 2008, they lost in Washington, spent a week in Virginia, and then played poorly in a loss at the Jets. In 2013, they lost in New Orleans, spent a week in Tampa, and then played sluggishly before pulling out a late win against the Buccaneers. The chance to come up with a sweep on the road makes the whole trip worthwhile. 

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