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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals Prediction and Preview

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals Prediction and Preview

Steelers vs. Cardinals Prediction and Preview

The Pittsburgh Steelers look to continue their momentum as they head to the West Coast on Sunday to take on the Arizona Cardinals. These two last played in 2015 at Heinz Field with the home team winning 25-13 and featured Carson Palmer, Landry Jones, and Michael Vick under center. There was a slightly larger meeting between the Cardinals and Steelers back in 2009 when Pittsburgh knocked off Arizona 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII.

The Steelers are 7-5 in the AFC North, which is good for a distant second place behind 10-2 Baltimore. They've won six of their last seven after a 1-4 start and have found success despite losing their starting quarterback very early in the season. The defense has been incredible, holding six of their last nine opponents to 20 points or less. Undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges is the third player who has been under center for Pittsburgh, but it hasn't mattered.

On the other side, Arizona is 3-8-1 and hasn't won since Oct. 20 when they beat the Giants at the Meadowlands. Since then, Arizona has lost five straight, three of which have come by double digits. Every time the Cardinals take a step forward, they take a few steps back. Winning is always nice, but the team is in a more important race for a high draft pick with just four games left.

Pittsburgh at Arizona

Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 8 at 4:25 p.m. ET


Spread: Pittsburgh -3

Three Things to Watch

1. Intangibles

Pittsburgh's scheduling spot intrigues me. The Steelers have come off three straight divisional games and have their final road game of the regular season next week against the Bills, with whom they will be competing for a wild card. This squad has just two road wins, but one came against listless Cincinnati, and the other came against the Chargers, where Dignity Health Sports Park felt like a home game. There's a chance they aren't 100 percent focused for this one. Meanwhile, it's game two of three in a row at home for the Cardinals. There's no real scheduling spot here for Arizona, as they are just a bad football team. Next up is a home tilt with the Browns, and it's hard to imagine them looking ahead to that one.

2. Who is available for Pittsburgh?

The Steelers' skill position players have been like a turnstile in and out of the lineup this season. The team has had to cobble together the quarterback position after losing Ben Roethlisberger in September. Since then, it's been the Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges show with Hodges under center last week in the win. The quarterback from Samford has completed 67.2 percent of his passes with three touchdowns to just two interceptions. He's a solid game manager who has found success without his No. 1 receiver and running back, and JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner will both miss another game after being ruled out on Friday afternoon. Benny Snell Jr. was solid in the backfield vs. Cleveland, while James Washington racked up more than 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. Keep an eye out for Vance McDonald to have some success, considering Arizona is the worst team in the league against tight ends.

3. What can Kyler do for you?

Last week was not one of Kyler Murray's finest games, and it wasn't even his fault. The signal-caller was constantly under siege, being sacked six times with countless other pressures. Murray had a 9.8 QBR with no touchdown passes and one interception. If the Cardinals can't run it well to take pressure off the rookie quarterback, then it's going to be another long week against a stout Pittsburgh defense. Their secondary has been bolstered big time since adding Minkah Fitzpatrick. One has to wonder if Murray is hitting the rookie wall or is rapidly approaching.

Final Analysis

I picked the Cardinals to win last week and couldn't have been more wrong. They didn't show up against an angry Rams team that had all the time in the world to fix what ailed them. I'd love to pick Arizona this week, as I'm concerned the Steelers may not be 100 percent focused for this one. I couldn't fault them if they just weren't motivated as much for this matchup after playing the Browns twice in a three-week span. Still, I'm done picking Arizona until they show me something.

NFL Power Rankings: Steelers

Prediction: Steelers 21, Cardinals 10

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.