It’s two teams going in opposite directions on Sunday in the desert as the surging Pittsburgh Steelers visit the sinking Arizona Cardinals.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Arizona Cardinals (3-8-1)
Sunday, December 08, 2019 – 04:25 PM EST
State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
One of just two interconference games in the Week 14 NFL schedule features Pittsburgh making its first regular-season visit to Arizona since 2011. This game figures to draw little national attention simply because it has the same kickoff time as the marquee matchup of the week, Chiefs at Patriots.
Arizona is playing out the string and looking another potentially very high pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Of course, the Cardinals got their franchise quarterback at No. 1 overall in the 2019 draft in Oklahoma, quarterback Kyler Murray. Team needs a lot more talent around him. Don’t be surprised if the Cards use their first-rounder on a stud receiver like Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.
Only a few teams in league history have started 0-3 and made the playoffs, but the Steelers would be the AFC’s second Wild-Card team as things stand. And to think some were calling for Mike Tomlin’s firing back in September…
Pittsburgh has won the past three in this series, which includes a very memorable 27-23 victory in Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1, 2009, in Tampa. You may remember Steelers linebacker James Harrison had a 100-yard interception return for a score to close the first half and that Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes on the winning 6-yard TD pass with just over 30 seconds remaining.
Duck, Duck Goose!
The Steelers aren’t catching Baltimore in the AFC North and in fact, could be eliminated from that race this week. So it’s Wild Card or bust and probably only the second spot because 9-3 Buffalo holds the first. Tennessee is also 7-5 but the Steelers win the tiebreaker there thanks to a 6-3 conference record compared to 5-4 for the Titans. Pittsburgh’s remaining schedule is: vs. Bills, at Jets, at Ravens. The Titans are in Oakland on Sunday and then close vs. Texans, vs. Saints and at Texans. So that’s considerably tougher.
This should be the only game of Week 14 to feature rookie starting quarterbacks. Steelers undrafted free agent Devlin “Duck” Hodges – he won the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy at Samford in 2018 — got his second career start this past Sunday and improved to 2-0 with a 20-13 comeback win over Cleveland.
Hodges didn’t light it up in completing 14 of 21 for 212 yards with a TD and pick but also didn’t make any crucial mistakes. No undrafted free agent QB in league history has won each of his first three starts in his first season as Hodges attempts on Sunday.
That was a big win considering that Pittsburgh’s No. 1 running back in James Conner and No. 1 receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster were both out injured. Benny Snell stepped up for Conner with 63 yards rushing and a score, and James Washington did for Schuster with four catches for 111 yards and a TD. Too early to tell if either Schuster or Conner will play this week but sounds like Schuster is closer to doing so. One guy who will return this week is one of the NFL’s best centers in Maurkice Pouncey. He was suspended for the past two games for his role in that Steelers-Browns brawl a few weeks ago.
Arizona Can’t Play Defense
Murray has shown plenty of promise this year and likely finishes second in NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting to Oakland running back Josh Jacobs, but Murray comes off a rough game in a 34-7 home loss to the Rams on Sunday – Arizona’s fifth straight defeat. Murray was 19-for-34 for 163 yards with a pick that was returned for a score and rushed for only 28 yards, although he did have a touchdown. Murray also was sacked six times. Arizona had just 81 yards of offense through three quarters.
The Cardinals defense is by far the worst in the NFL against the pass, and that showed in that loss as Jared Goff scorched the Cardinals for 424 yards passing and two scores; Goff was at 405 yards with 8:44 left in the third quarter. That defense gave up a season-high 549 yards and allowed the Rams had two 100-yard receivers in the first half alone. The Arizona D is in the bottom two in the NFL in yards allowed per game, points allowed per game, yards per play, passing yards allowed, third downs and third-down percentage.
Sunday’s performance was so bad that starting cornerback Tramaine Brock was released on Monday. He started seven of the 10 games in which he was active and had eight tackles vs. the Rams. Surprised that coordinator Vance Joseph still has a job.
This might feel like a pseudo-home game for the Steelers because there are going to be a ton of Pittsburgh fans in attendance this time of year. I’m quite surprised this spread is so low – jump on it now before it gets to 3 everywhere.
- Steelers are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
- Steelers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games vs the NFC.
- Cardinals are 1-9-1 SU in their last 11 games after a loss.