A dud in the desert

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers began the NFL season hoping they would have a date with destiny in the desert.

Of course, the thinking was more of a Arizona sojourn in February than one in early autumn.

Yesterday's visit was supposed to be little more than a scrimmage with the rebuilding Cardinals with perhaps an early look-see at this year's Super Bowl venue for good measure.

Instead it turned into disaster, a 21-14 loss, exposing a three-win start as a flattering record against soft opponents.

The defeat shared shock value with the San Diego Chargers' home blowout bumbling to Kansas City as the lowlight of Week 4.

It was a huge win over Cardinals coach and former Steelers assistant Ken Whisenhunt, who wanted this one bad.

Whisenhunt also felt it was he, not Mike Tomlin, who should have replaced Bill Cowher.

Yesterday, the former Steelers offensive coordinator tapped into his inside knowledge of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was sacked four times after spending much of the week verbally slamming his old coach.

DEAD AND BURIED

Say good night, Chicago Bears. You too, Chargers. Two teams who figured to be genuine contenders are all but done at 1-3.

The Chargers' disgraceful collapse at home against Kansas City made it look like the players themselves had packed it in late in the 30-16 loss. Don't forget to turn out the lights, Norv Turner, you may not make it to U.S. Thanksgiving.

And apparently the Bears' problems go much deeper than gross incompetency at QB. Brian Griese may have been worse than sad-sack Rex Grossman, stinking out Ford Field in the 37-27 loss to the Lions.

Griese was intercepted three times -- including twice inside the Lions five. Worse, the once-feared Bears defence is battered and beatable, giving up more points yesterday than it did in the first five games of 2006.

MAKE IT A KEITH

The world is well aware of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Joseph Addai and all the big names of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts.

But a big reason the AFC powerhouse has been a consistent contender for going on a decade goes deeper than that.

General manager Bill Polian, who cut his teeth in the CFL, never has forgotten those roots as a source of talent.

The latest to have an impact is running back Kenton Keith, the former Saskatchewan Roughrider, who rushed for 80 yards on 10 clock-eating carries late in the Colts' 38-20 win over Denver. With injuries to Addai and Harrison, Keith was pressed into being Manning's go-to guy and responded.

And despite those who doubted his leaving the Prairies, Keith won't be running back to Saskatoon -- or Regina -- any time soon.

QUICK SLANTS

If I'm Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, I'm looking over my shoulder. Yes, it was just the Jets and it was a squeaker of a win, but rookie Trent Edwards looked solid and far more composed than Losman in completing 22 of 28 for 234 yards in his first NFL start.

- The barking you hear would be the five home teams who were point-spread underdogs and won outright -- Arizona, Buffalo, Detroit, Atlanta and Cleveland.

- Jeff Garcia continues to amaze. The former CFL star has yet to throw an interception and after a 20-7 upset of Carolina has the Bucs at 3-1.

- Even more impressive than passing Dan Marino for career NFL touchdown receptions with his 421st yesterday against Minnesota is that Brett Favre has led his young Packers to a 4-0 record. "Let's keep this (bleep) going," Favre told those teammates in the locker room, post game.

- And how 'bout those Cowboys?


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