The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Arizona Cardinals Sunday at Heinz Field. Below are seven key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in this game in order to come away with a home win against the 4-1 Cardinals.
Give Fitz Fits – It’s quite simple to see that the Cardinals passing offense runs through veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald this year. The former University of Pittsburgh star leads the Cardinals with 35 catches for 490 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not only that, Fitzgerald has 11 off the team’s 22 passing explosive plays so far this season. The Cardinals will line Fitzgerald up all over the place and the Steelers defense must limit his production on Sunday and force quarterback Carson Palmer to utilize his other receivers more.
No Short Flying Distances – As mentioned earlier in the week, the Cardinals currently lead the league in points scored off of turnovers. In other words, if the Steelers turn the football over on Sunday, there’s a good chance that the Cardinals will turn that possession into points. Steelers quarterback Mike Vick has gotten away with several bad throws in the last two-plus games, but that’s not likely to happen on Sunday with the Cardinals, who have a whopping 11 interceptions so far this season. They simply can’t provide the Cardinals offense short fields in this game if they expect to win.
Run At Old Man Freeney – Due to injuries, the Cardinals were forced to sign veteran outside linebacker Dwight Freeney this past week and he’s expected to play 15-20 snaps Sunday against the Steelers. Freeney is likely to be on the field in nickel situations, so if possibly, the Steelers offense should run at him as much as possibly in this game. Personally, I would suggest the offense use a lot of 11 personnel in an effort to spread out the Cardinals defense as much as possible. Run left and run left a lot as that’s where the Cardinals defense figures to be weakest.
Running Cards – The Cardinals offense leads the league in yards per rush as that number is nearly 5. Additionally their offense has averaged an amazing 6.72 yards per carry on runs to the left side of the center. The Cardinals offense feeds off of staying ahead of the chains and we’ll get to see on Sunday just how stout the Steelers run defense really is and if they can come close to keeping their 3.85 yards per carry average.
Vertical Vick – Vick absolutely has to start going vertical more in the passing than what he has in his last two starts. That means more throws of 10 yards or more past the line of scrimmage and more towards the middle of the field. Vick should also have wide receiver Martavis Bryant back on Sunday and it will be interesting to see if he attempts to go deep to him a few times in this game.
Feed AB Early – The Steelers absolutely have to get frustrated wide receiver Antonio Brown off to a great start in this game via quick slants or a bubble screen. Brown is at his best when delivered the football out on space so that he can rack up the yards after the catch.
Stealing Steelers – The Steelers must steal at least two possessions in Sunday’s game if they want to win. In other words, they’ll need a turnover or two in addition to a big punt return or kickoff return. They can’t expect Vick to lead the offense on multiple long touchdown scoring drives. If they get one, they’ll be lucky.