By Ray Porter Jr.
PITTSBURGH, PA-Fresh off their 16-10 win at Cincinnati, the Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to continue their winning ways as they returned home to Acrisure Stadium to face the 2-10 Arizona Cardinals. And because of their ten losses, many media types assumed that the Steelers would easily beat the Cardinals, a team that had been without Franchise QB Kyler Murray and had to rely on former Steelers QB Joshua Dobbs, who has since been traded to the Minnesota Vikings.
But to quote former NFL Commissioner Bert Bell (who served from 1946-1959), “On any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other team.”
Such was the case Sunday at Acrisure Stadium as many expected to see an improving offense, but the wrong one showed up as the Cardinals pulled off a 24-10 upset over the Steelers in front of a crowd of 66,436 who had to endure wind, storms, and lightning that led to two game delays.
“That was a horrible day at the office. We didn’t do much right in that game, to be quite honest with you. So, we’ve got to own that. Obviously, starting first and foremost with me. Just losing football, really was,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “We were highly penalized, some pre-snap penalties, some operational penalties, bad snaps. Just JV football in a lot of ways. I thought it was a significant point in the game when we got stopped in the red zone, and then they drove the ball there before the half. But that doesn’t tell the story of the game. We just weren’t good enough throughout the game. We didn’t play a good game today.”
A week after the Steelers had a total of 421 yards for the first time in 58 games, the Steelers offense regressed to 317 yards, which was more than the Cardinals 282, but it was not enough to help them put points on the board, which included Time of Possession.
“Possession-down ball was not where we needed it to be,” Tomlin said. “I thought that was the story really the first half. I thought we were running it fluidly, but we weren’t able to run it enough because we weren’t winning enough possession downs. So, I think it kind of snowballed from there.”
The Steelers had three scoring opportunities that only resulted in 3 points: 1. On their first drive, QB Kenny Pickett (7/10, 70 yards) led the Steelers on an impressive seven plays, 65 yards drive, but unfortunately, it only ended with a 29-yard FG by K Chris Boswell, which gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead. 2. Pickett once again led the Steelers on an impressive drive to the Red Zone, but their misfortune continued as Pickett’s scramble fell short of the end zone and resulted in an injured ankle. Enter backup QB Mitch Trubisky, on a 4th and 1, which failed with RB Najee Harris could not break the plane, which resulted in no points.
“We’ve got to score points in order to win football games. And so not going to question our aggression there. We’ve got to be able to get a yard,” said Tomlin.
The Cardinals then turned that opportunity into a 99-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard TD pass from QB Kyler Murray (13/23, 145 yards, TD) to TE Trey McBride (8 rec, 89 yards), giving the Cardinals a 10-3 lead.
“They worked the interior portions of the field. We didn’t do a good enough job matching up on their tight end. I thought their tight end was significant, particularly in that sequence,” commented Tomlin.
The Steelers’ 3rd failed scoring opportunity happened in the third quarter as Tribusky led the Steelers down the field only to miss a potential TD to pass to TE/FB Connor Heyward and, to make matters worse, a missed FG attempt by Boswell and zero points.
As the Steelers’ offense struggled, the Cardinals’ offense succeeded as former Pitt Panther and Steelers RB James Conner came to life in the second half and scored the Cardinals’ final 2 TDs to extend their lead to 24-3. Conner would finish the game rushing 25 times for 105 yards against his former team.
The Steelers were finally able to get into the end zone as Trubisky found WR Diontae Johnson for a 2-yard TD pass, but it was too little, too late, as the Steelers fell to 7-5.
Pickett’s injury proved to be more serious than anticipated, as he had ankle surgery on Monday and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Tomlin said that Tribusky will remain the starter in Pickett’s absence.
The Steelers know that they must quickly learn from this as they have a Thursday Night Game vs. the New England Patriots, who are also 2-10.
“But, again, as I mentioned, we need to look no further than the mirror. We didn’t do it today.” Said Tomlin. “And we’ve got a short week. So, no time to feel sorry for ourselves and things of that nature. We’ve got fast business approaching.”
Notes: On Monday, the Steelers signed former Penn State QB Trace McSorley to their Practice Squad.
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