PITTSBURGH — Whenever the Pittsburgh Steelers are in trouble, they turn to their defense.
The Steelers halted two St. Louis drives in the final quarter Sunday and ended a three-game losing streak with a 23-10 victory over the Cardinals.
"This was as close to a must win as we've had in a long time," said Steeler nose tackle Gary Dunn. "This was the first step in the road back for us."
Mark Malone threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Louis Lipps, and Frank Pollard scored on a 14-yard run in a three-minute span of the first quarter as the Steelers took a 14-3 lead. Gary Anderson followed with three field goals, two following St. Louis turnovers.
Other than that, Pittsburgh (3-4) did it with defense.
"The Steelers played good, aggressive football and we couldn't generate an offense until the fourth quarter," said St. Louis Coach Hanifan, whose Cardinals (3-4) lost for the third straight time.
St. Louis has scored only 24 points in three games, and the Cardinals' offensive frustration was never more apparent after Neil Lomax threw a five-yard scoring pass to Stump Mitchell with 12:29 to play, cutting the Steelers' lead to 23-10.
The Steelers had to punt, and the Cardinals quickly marched to a first down at the Pittsburgh six. But the drive halted when Lomax threw two hurried incompletions after being dumped for a 17-yard loss by defensive end Keith Willis and a seven-yard loss by cornerback Rick Woods.
"That was ridiculous," Hanifan said. "We should have scored on that drive, but we didn't execute. We had guys open but we just didn't get the ball to them. . . . It was a team effort."
The Cardinals marched inside the Steeler 20 again in the final minute, but Lomax was sacked for a 10-yard loss by Dunn before firing an incompletion on the game's final play.
The Cardinals ran eight plays inside the Pittsburgh 10-yard line in the fourth quarter and didn't score on one of them.
"That's a pretty good example of why we're not winning," said Lomax. "Teams are taking away stuff we used to do well."
The victory kept the Steelers from suffering what would have been their first four-game losing streak under Coach Chuck Noll in 14 years.
"This is a victory we needed very badly," Noll said.
Neil O'Donoghue provided the Cardinals' only first-half points with a 19-yard field goal with 4:26 left in the first quarter when Hanifan decided not to gamble on fourth down at the Steeler one.
Prior to the field goal, the Cardinals were frustrated when Lomax threw two incompletions, and Ottis Anderson was stopped at the one-yard line after St. Louis marched to a first down at the Steeler two.
"We're just not playing up to our potential," Lomax said. "I'm very upset about the loss. Any time you lose three in a row, you'd better be upset."