As the Arizona Cardinals come off their BYE it is tough to imagine a harder matchup for a struggling offense that the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers defense and on the other side of the football it is not going to be much easier on a defense that has trouble getting to the QB and has trouble keeping the football in front of them in the passing game. However on any given Sunday any team can step out onto the gridiron and win a football game, and while it may seem a longshot the Cardinals do have the ability to overcome the Steelers and come away with a win on Sunday, but do so they will need to make sure of a few things;
1:Don't let Ben Roethlisberger extend the play. Ben Roethlisberger is the type of Quarterback that on his day can shred even the best defenses in the NFL and a big part of why he is able to do that is his ability to extend the play. Due to his size he can be very tough to bring down and even if he is put under pressure he can still have a large degree of success because of this. The Arizona Cardinals will need to be disciplined in their pass rush, if they get their hands on the QB make sure they bring him down, but even if they cannot make sure you force him to make throws from the pocket. Make Roethlisberger play the game of a traditional QB, if you do this you can force him into mistakes all six of his interceptions this season have come when the opposition does not blitz him.
2: Have success on first downs. Make sure that all of your first down plays are gaining positive yards, even if it is two or three, make sure that the team is moving forwards on first downs. Against a team with a defense of the quality of the Pittsburgh Steelers once you put yourself into second or third in long situations and become one dimensional you are asking for trouble, quality pass rushers pinning their ears back against below par tackles does not end well. To achieve this the Cardinals need to run the ball early and often, use short high percentage passes to get positive yards and make sure that the run is still an option on second and third downs give the Steelers defense more to think about and help your tackles as much as possible.
3: Win the turnover battle. This one is self explanatory; get more takeaways than you commit giveaways. The offense if it plays effective football should be able to not commit a single turnover, but the defense is going to need to step up their playmaking ability if the Cardinals want to win this game. Patrick Peterson and Adrian Wilson need to begin getting their hands amongst more passes and taking advantage of balls they have the chance to intercept. Turnovers usually lead to points directly via the return or indirectly via the change of possession and good field position.
4: Utilise Playaction. The Pittsburgh Steelers play an aggressive style of defense that can be susceptible if a team can run quality play action against them. The first thing the Cardinals need to do it run the ball and run it with at least moderate success. Then from there the playaction pass is one of the most valuable assets a team has. It can not only serve to slow down the pass rush it can be an asset in pulling a safety out of position, away from a double team or closer to the line of scrimmage than he should be creating gaps that the offense can then take advantage of.
5: Win the field Position Battle. The battle of special teams often goes overlooked in the lead up to an NFL game, but it is a very important cog in a well oiled winning machine. A team that dominates the field position battle over the course of an NFL game is more often then not come out on the winning side of the ledger. This means that numerous facets of special teams play need to show up on Sunday, the punter needs to get good hang time and depth on his punts, the kick and punt coverage units need to play aggressive, converge on the return-man and take him down on first contact and the Cardinals returners need to find cracks and crevices in the opposition coverage units to break a big return of two. Forcing the opposition to go 80 yards instead of 60 can be the difference between a field goal and a touchdown, and the vice versa on offense. If the Cardinals want to win on Sunday they are going to need to win the field position battle.
It is going to be a tough uphill battle for the Cardinals as they attempt to bounce back from a 1-4 start with a win after the bye, but if they are able to do the basics right on Sunday they will put themselves in with a tremendous shot. Basic skills, take care of the football, play well on special teams, get positive yardage on first downs and play disciplined on defense. Do this and the game will be there for the taking.