Setting the Stage
Rams Steelers surprised the world by going 7 & 5 by upsetting Cleveland Browns (glamor boys of the NFL going into the season) 20 - 13. Cardinals have dropped five straight games to arrive at an unglamorous 3 - 8 - 1.
Cardinals are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Rams after nearly upsetting the 49ers twice earlier).
Local Steeler beat writer, Bryan DeArdo, points out: "The Steelers are notorious for losing late season games on the road against teams with losing records.
Tadd Haislop of The Sporting News adds: "Even against the Steelers and their stingy defense, Kyler Murray and Co. are bound to play better than they did in their blowout loss to the Rams last week. That should make for good matchups on both sides of the ball, as Arizona's 31st-ranked scoring defense doesn't pose much of a threat to the Steelers' limping offense. Both of these teams have played in a lot of close games this season. The difference between them is that Pittsburgh has won those games.
Most compelling story-lines: (1) Steelers Still a Playoff Contender", (2) Unsung Backup QB (Devlin "Duck" Hodges) and (3) a Steelers' defense that leads the NFL with 30 turnovers through 12 games.
Most Recent Game
Steelers upset the Browns 20 - 13. Cleveland scored first to lead 3 - 0 at the end of the 1Q. Steelers came back to tie the game 10 - 10 at halftime. Pittsburgh posted 7 unanswered points to lead by 7 going into the 4Q and hung on to be a 20 -13 winner.
Hero of the game has to be the rook (Hodges) who completed 14 of 21 passes for 212 yards and a TD. He was supported by a robust run-game that churned out 124 yards. In doing so, Pittsburgh was able to overcome 10 penaties (vs. 5 for Cleveland). Defense held Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield to 196 yards via the air.
Cleve - FG - Seibert - 31Yds - Browns 3 - Steelers 0
FIRST QUARTER SCORE: Browns 3 - Steelers 0
Cleve - TD -Hunt - 15 Yds Pass Fr Mayfield -Browns 10 - Steelers 0
Pitt - FG - Boswell - 39 Yds - Browns 10- Steelers 3
Pitt - TD -Washingon - 30 Yd Pass fr Hodges -Browns 10 - Steelers 10
HALFTIME SCORE: - Browns 10 - Steelers 10
Balt - TD Snell - 1 Yd Run - Steelers 17 - Browns 10
3RD QUARTER SCORE: Steelers 17 - Browns 10
Pitt - FG - Boswell - 29 Yds - Steelers 17 - Browns 13
Cleve - FG Siebert 34 Yds - Steelers 20 - Browns 13
4th QUARTER SCORE: Steelers 20 - Browns 13
Steelers in a Nutshell
QB ...06 Hodges...02Rudolph...05 Lynch
RB...30 Conner...38 Samuels...24 Snell...40 Whythe
WR...13 Washington...80 Holton...17 Cain
WR ..19 Smith-Shuster...18 D Johnson...14 T Jones
TE..89 McDonald...88 Vannett...81 Gentry
LT....78 Villanueva...76 Okorafor
OC...53 Pouncey..67 Finney
RT....71 Feller...72 Banner
Defensive Interior Line
LDE -90 Bullard...92 Kerr...94 Reid
NT - 98 Peters...72 M Brown
RDE - 95 Gunter, 91 Dogbe
SAM - 55 C Jones...49 Fitts
ILB - ..59 Walker...43 Reddick...51 Vallejo
MLB - 58 Hicks, 42 Gardeck...47 Z Turner
WILL - 56 Suggs, 54 Marsh Sr
RCB - 33 Murphy.....27 K Peterson
LCB - 21 P Peterson...25 C Jones.
SS - 34 J Thompson...35 D Thompson
FS - 32 Baker...38 Banjo...28 C Washington... 40 Tillman*
Matchup: Steeler Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
With Ben Rothlisberger shelved, the Steelers have turned to #2 backup Devlin Hodges. His numbers suggest more of a "game manager" than it does a dynamic passing-machine - i.e. He's completed 41 of 61 [passes for 67.2%, 3 TDs and 2 Interceptions. He's ben sacked just 3 times.
Leading Steeler receivers haven't posted anything spectacular statistically - Leaders includ Samuels (39 catchs - 6.0 YPC, 1 TD), Smith-Shuster (38 grabs,, 13.8 YPC, 3 TDs), D Johnson (11.75 YPC, 3 TDs) . Leading TE (an especially scary Cardinal vulnerability) is McDonald with 7.6 YPC and 3 TDs.
Cards' pass defenders have disappointed pretty much the entire season. The hope was that the return of Patrick Peterson would rejuvinate the secondary, but opposing teams continue to exploit the Cardinal pass defense. Reason usually stated: "Poor communication." From our standpoint, we see our DBs as consistently "one step slow" and prone to lose 9 of every 10 battles for the ball, open field tackles and other matchup battles.
Key Matchups - Peterson, Peterson and Murphy vs Samuel, Smith-Shuster and D Johnson. Baker vs. McDonald
Matchup:Steeler Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Steelers split the running chores between Conner (3.82 YPC) and Snell (4.29 YPC). Connor (with 4 TDs) appears to be Steeler's short-yardage dude.
Key Matchups - Connor or Snell vs. Cardinal DL and Hicks
01 Murray, 07 Hundley
D Johnson, 29 Edmonds,
WR - 11 Fitzgerald...89 Isabella, 12 Cooper
WR - 13 Kirk....19 KS Johnson. 16 Sherfield...14 Byrd
TE - 85 Clay ....81 Daniels
TE - 87 - MWilliams
LT- ...74 Humphries...66 Miles,
LG - 67 Pugh
OC- 53 Shipley, 52 Cole
RG- 64 Sweezy...73 Garcia, 65 Gailliard.
RT - 71 J Murray..
DT...97 Heyward...96 Buggs
NT..79 Hargrave...93 McCullers
LOLB 90 Watt...56 Chickillo
LILB 26 Barron...55 Bush
RILB..98 V Williams...44 Mattakevich...41 Spillane
ROLB...48 DuPree...92 Adenlyi...51 Skipper
LCB...23 Haden...31 Layne
FS......39 Fitzpatrick...29 Kelly
RCB...22 Nelson...25 Burns
NIK.....28 Hilton...20 Sutton
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs Steeler Pass Defense
K Murray had an especially perplexing outing vs. Rams - he wasn't very accurate. He couldn't find many usefull scrambing lanes. Hopefull, he and Kingsbury can study the tape and make the necessary adjustments. How Murray adjusts to adversity is part of the maturation process of a starting QB. But this isn't a gimme- will he remain rattled? Or will he respond.
Meanwhile, Murray has to face a Steeler pass rush featuring TJ Watt (12.5 sacks, DuPree (8.5), Heywrd (7.0), Hargrave (4.0T and uitt (3.5). He had difficulty rolling wide vs. Rams and will face a challenge vs. Pittsburgh.
K Murray vs. Haden. Watt vs. Humphries. Pass Rushers vs. Cardinal OL
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Steeler Run Defense
It looks like Kenyon Drake has replaced D Johnson as our lead bell-cow. Card running attack has remained inocnsistent throughout the season. We think the reason might be that opposing defenses have been slow to react to the replacement RBs at first, but then game-plan to stop Drake and Edmunds.
Leading Steeler tacklers are Bush (86), T Edmunds (76), Heyward (61), Haden (54), DuPree (50) Hilton (46), Fitz (45) Hargrave (45) Nelson (43), Watt (39). High number of active tacklers suggest that Steeler defense excels at gang tackling.
Drake vs. Fitzpatrick...D Johnson vs. Bush,,,Cardinal OL vs. Steeler LBs.
Steeler Special Teams
K ......09 Boswell
P ..... 04 Berry
H 04 Berry
LS 57 Canaday
KR ..40 Whyte
PR 18 D Johnson
Cardinals Special Teams
P - ...02 Lee
K- ....05 Gonzalez
H - ...02 Lee
LS - 46 Brewer
KR -12 Cooper... 89 Isabella...
PR - 12 Cooper...13 Kirk.
Matchup Steeler Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
WWe don't know a lot about Steeler kickers or punters and have to give the edge to Gonzalez and (if helathy) Lee. Cooper is competent but not especially dangerous as a returner. Don't know much about Whyte or Johnson.
Steeler coverage teams vs. Cooper. Cardinal coverage teams vs. Whyte and D Johnson
Coaching / Intangibles
HC: Mike Tomlin. Asst HC: John Mitchell. /OC Randt Fichtner. DC: Keith Butler...ST: Danny Smith. When you realize what the Steelers have accomplished, without their starting QB or a highly respected backup, you've got to consider Tomlin as a candidate for Coach of the Year. With Tomlin, you always get the impression that - tucked away from all the major media markets, the Steelers hide in the Western Pennsylvania woods somewhere hiring their own people, ignoring the media and pretty much doing their own thing - and it works for them.
How to Beat Steelers
Cards Steelers seem to be playing things close to the vest and making three times more plays than they commit mistakes. Best way to battle the Steelers is to play hard, sound, fundamental football and hope the ball bounces in our direction more than it does them.