The Pittsburgh Steelers begin the home stretch today, in their first of three games over the final four that take place outside of the Steel City. First up is the Arizona Cardinals, who are 3-8-1 are not the most daunting challenge that they have faced this year, though certainly not an opponent to be taken lightly.
Especially given some of the issues that they have had this season in containing the mobile quarterback. While they have handled some better than others, Baker Mayfield in particular was a recent issue, extending plays with his legs and making throws down the field. Even in Sunday’s loss, he continued to show that ability.
Today, they get Kyler Murray, who goes quite a bit of moving around. Interestingly, according to Pro Football Focus, he has been responsible for 19 of the sacks that he has taken this year, more than any other quarterback in the PFF era, with four games to play; however, he also gets himself out of as much trouble as he buys for himself with his attempts to make plays.
And so the spotlight will be on the front line, and particularly the edge defenders. T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree have become the stars of the defense of late, just as Steelers fans like their outside linebackers to be. If they can keep Murray in the pocket and bring him down a few times, it should be business as usual.
Arizona hasn’t had much of a run game this year. Murray is their leading rusher with 446 yards. Kenyan Drake has become their leading rusher, and with four games there, he has rushed for 243 yards on 54 attempts. He was traded from Miami right before the Steelers played them, so they likely at least scouted for him.
At wide receiver, you’re still talking about Larry Fitzgerald, who leads the team in catches, yards, and touchdowns, but Christian Kirk has been a fine number two as well, and David Johnson is still contributing in that area. Their tight ends have not been a significant component.
Neither has Terrell Suggs, relatively speaking, for the defense. He has five and a half sacks this year, though also with eight tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles. But it’s his teammate, Chandler Jones, who owns the headlines with 13 sacks and five forced fumbles.
At cornerback, the Cardinals have Patrick Peterson and rookie Byron Murphy, the latter listed as questionable to play. This will be a key matchup to watch with James Washington, Diontae Johnson, and Deon Cain needing to find ways to be productive for Devin Hodges.
And then there’s Benny Snell. Though he saw his snap count decrease last week, with Jaylen Samuels taking up a lot of reps, without getting touches, Snell will still figure to get the majority of the carries. If he can do well on the ground for a third straight game, that would really start to say something.