PITTSBURGH -- For the first time in seven weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers know what it's like to win. They said it won't make much difference unless they win the next seven weeks, too.
Tommy Maddox threw three touchdown passes, two to Hines Ward barely a minute apart in a 21-point third quarter, and the Steelers ended their five-game losing streak and Arizona's two-game winning streak with a 28-15 victory Sunday.
Maddox hit Chris Doering on a 9-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to finish off an 83-yard drive that was the Steelers' longest since their opener. Maddox then found Ward on touchdown plays of 5 and 22 yards early in the third quarter following a short punt and a fumble.
"It wasn't one of our better games, but it was a win and, right now, every game is a must win for us," Ward said. "Every game is like a one-game playoff."
Antwaan Randle El also had a 52-yard punt return touchdown as the Steelers scored all but seven of their points in the first 8½ minutes of the third quarter.
"It's obvious this ballgame flipped in the third quarter," Arizona coach Dave McGinnis said. "This was very disappointing coming off two wins and a 7-3 game at halftime. Two possessions and a punt return and it's a completely different game."
Their best quarter of a so-far miserable year gave the Steelers a sliver of hope for the second half of their season.
"Well, it was a win," coach Bill Cowher said, though with not a lot of enthusiasm. "It's nice to finally win a game."
Despite falling three games behind Baltimore in the AFC North, the Steelers (3-6) hope a soft remaining schedule -- only the Ravens started the day above .500 -- can help them get back into the division race. Only one NFL team has made the playoffs after starting 2-6, Cincinnati in 1970, and none has done so since the league adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978.
"We have to go 8-0 (in the second half) to get to 10-6 ... I don't think 9-7 will do it," linebacker Joey Porter said. "We wish we weren't 3-6, but we know we can still get it done."
The Cardinals (3-6), winless in nine road games dating to last season, certainly cooperated. They didn't score a touchdown until Jeff Blake's 11-yard pass to Anquan Boldin with Pittsburgh up 28-3.
Blake has passed for 1,548 yards in his past five starts against Pittsburgh, but threw for only 48 yards in the first half before finishing 23-of-43 for 307 yards. Marcel Shipp was held to 63 yards on 22 carries after rushing for 306 yards the previous two weeks.
"The third quarter just killed us," Blake said. "They just blew us out and ... it was too late to get it done."
Arizona had a chance to make it 28-16 early in the fourth, driving to a first down at the Pittsburgh 5. But Blake threw three consecutive incompletions before hitting Bryant Johnson near the goal line on a fourth-and-goal pass.
The officials initially ruled Johnson came up short, and McGinnis challenged the call. After the review, referee Jeff Triplette decided Johnson came down in the end zone but was an ineligible receiver because he went out of bounds before making the catch.
Blake got a second chance on what became fourth-and-goal from the 10 following the 5-yard penalty but was tripped up for no gain by Jason Gildon. Blake later hit Johnson on a 54-yard score, but with only 17 seconds remaining.
Gildon had three sacks after getting only two in eight games and finally broke L.C. Greenwood's team career record of 73½ sacks. Gildon now has 76 sacks.
Pittsburgh, which had allowed at least 30 points in losing three consecutive home games, broke it open after Scott Player's 24-yard punt out of his own end zone on Arizona's first possession of the second half. The Steelers took over at the 27, and a 22-yard pass interference call on Renaldo Hill led to Ward's 5-yard touchdown catch.
Kimo Von Oelhoffen then recovered a Deshea Townsend-forced fumble on the second play of Arizona's next possession, and Maddox (12-of-24, 159 yards) hit Ward for his second touchdown catch in 67 seconds. Townsend also had a sack while making his first start of the season at cornerback for the demoted Dewayne Washington.
Pittsburgh's Antwaan Randle El returns a third-quarter punt for a TD as Adrian Wilson pursues. (AP)
|TD||Chris Doering, 9 Yd pass from Tommy Maddox (Jeff Reed kick is good), 5:59. Drive: 12 plays, 83 yards in 6:32.|
|FG||Tim Duncan 20 Yd, 0:11. Drive: 7 plays, 15 yards in 1:39.|
|TD||Hines Ward, 5 Yd pass from Tommy Maddox (Jeff Reed kick is good), 13:16. Drive: 2 plays, 27 yards in 0:13.|
|TD||Hines Ward, 22 Yd pass from Tommy Maddox (Jeff Reed kick is good), 12:09. Drive: 1 play, 22 yards in 0:06.|
|TD||Antwaan Randle El, 52 Yd punt return (Jeff Reed kick is good), 6:33.|
|TD||Anquan Boldin, 11 Yd pass from Jeff Blake (Tim Duncan kick Failed), 2:29. Drive: 7 plays, 79 yards in 4:04.|
|TD||Bryant Johnson, 54 Yd pass from Jeff Blake , 0:17.|
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|A. Randle El||1||-3||0||-3|
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