Another week, another Arizona Cardinal defeat.
While the Redbirds came into this game as a slight home underdog, many assumed the Cardinals would at least muster the competitive edge to keep this one close.
Alas, while this remainder a one point score for the majority of the game, it never felt that close while watching it live.
Kyler Murray had another rough game following the Rams blowout of a week ago, but this was to be expected thanks to Pittsburgh’s top five defense.
The rookie standout completed 20 of his 30 attempts for just under 200 yards and two touchdowns. However, it was Murray’s three INTs that were the backbreaker in this one.
Two of which came deep within Steeler territory.
Say what you will about Murray’s recent struggles, but it bears repeating that the Cardinal receivers (outside of Christian Kirk) find it a near impossible feat to separate from opposing DBs.
It also does not help that Murray was pressured all game long by a Steeler front seven that’s top three in total sacks. Murray, for the second consecutive week, was unable to find a consistent rhythm in the passing game.
The Arizona Cardinal defense was mostly horrible again, yielding a 117 passer rater to fourth string QB Devlin Hodgers. The Steeler offensive line also dominated upfront, making way for 140 yards on the ground to control time of possession.
Arizona’s best chance to rally from a late 10 point deficit was following a Steeler’s block/blunder punt attempt deep within their own territory. The Cardinals were able to cash in on a long touchdown pass (24 yards) to David Johnson from Kyler Murray. Suddenly it was a three point game with just over five minutes remaining.
However, the Cardinal defense allowed Hodges and company to march down the field and net a critical field goal while leaving roughly 90 seconds on the clock.
In what has become a worrisome trend, not only could the Cardinal offense not produce a scoring drive in the games final seconds, but they essentially went backwards.
In four plays, Kyler Murray took two sacks before chucking a game ending INT to Steeler CB Joe Haden.
With the loss, Arizona falls to 3-9-1 on the season.
Game Ball: David Johnson
Look, in a stretch like this, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. However, with Johnson’s efforts (health?) continually questioned in recent weeks by fans and media alike, it was nice to see glimpses of the old David Johnson against Pittsburgh.
The former All Pro produced 19 yards on the ground on a mere three carries, while adding 34 yards and a touchdown through the air. This was the first time since the first quarter of the season in which Johnson was noticeably separating from defenders. The explosion had briefly returned, if only for one Sunday.
With 10 million dollars in guarantees coming his way in 2020, Arizona needs to see these positive signs from Johnson to assure themselves that he hasn’t lost all of his value moving forward. At the very least, Johnson should be showcased over the course of the team’s final three games in an effort to drum up any kind of trade market for the high priced rusher.
Game Ball: Chandler Jones
Jones continues to have a fantastic season for the Cardinals, as the former Patriot represents the lone impact defender in the desert. Late in the half, with the Steelers once again driving, Jones halted a potential touchdown drive with his 14th sack on the season.
Chandler Jones is closing in on 30 years old and it’s fair to wonder if his greatness is being completely waisted on a roster that masks a potential Hall of Fame career.
Needs Work: Byron Murphy
What...what has happened to Byron Murphy? The former standout rookie CB that was making plays left and right, has now suddenly become a complete liability in coverage.
Prior to Sunday’s game, in which he allowed yet another receiving touchdown, the former Washington product co-led the league in receiving TDs allowed (joined in that category by teammate Haason Reddick).
When rookies tend to lose confidence as seasons progress, one can immediately point to the lapse in quality coaching as the main culprit. If Vance Joseph offers you little to nothing in terms of schematics on game day, he needs to (at the very least), be working to development young talent like Murphy.
That currently is not happening.
- For the first time this season, Haason Reddick saw snaps at OLB. The former 13th overall pick was recently benched in favor of ILB Joe Walker. However, even with the position change, Reddick did not record a tackle on Sunday.
- Patrick Peterson struggled mightily again, surrendering multiple catches in critical situations for the Cardinal defense. Late in the game he allowed Steeler WR Diontae Johnson to manhandle him for additional yards that would convert a third down. Peterson also missed a crucial tackle on an end around to Johnson earlier in the game. The Steelers would then go on to score a touchdown.
- The Cardinals have not had a receiver catch a touchdown pass since Pharoh Coopers second quarter TD three weeks ago against the Niners. That’s 10 quarters and counting...
- Kyler Murray was all but neutralized on the ground against Pittsburgh, tallying a mere two yards on six carries.
- Christian Kirk was Arizona’s leading receiver with 85 yards in the air. Of the current receiver core, Kirk should be the only surefire lock to start at receiver for the Cardinals come 2020.
- The Cardinals mustered a pedestrian 3.2 yards yards per rush (71 total rushing yards) against a Steeler front that threw around Arizona’s offensive line.
- Speaking of the Cardinal oline, the unit continues to take a horrific turn in recent weeks, as they allowed four sacks on Murray Sunday. The Cardinal offensive line is now on pace for over 60 sacks allowed on the season.
- WR/PR Pharoh Cooper remains a lone bright spot for Arizona, as the standout return man helped the Cardinal offense avoid poor field position on numerous occasions. Arizona would be wise to bring him back in 2020.
- Both teams were 4-11 on third down.
- At the writing of this article, the Arizona Cardinals own the sixth pick in next April’s NFL Draft. At their current rate, it is hard to envision them not finishing the season within the top five.