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Scouting the Enemy: 5 players to watch on the Cardinals roster in Week 13

The Steelers take on Kyler Murray and former Steeler James Conner on Sunday.

Running back James Conner #6 of the Arizona Cardinals rushes the football against the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on September 24, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Cowboys 28-16. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Steelers take on the 2-10 Cardinals on Sunday. On paper, it looks like an easy win for the Steelers and a chance to jump to 8-4 on the season. However, no victory is ever guaranteed in the NFL, and the Cardinals, despite their poor record this season, still have plenty of talent on their roster.

Here are five players on the Arizona Cardinals’ roster to keep your eye on heading into Week 13.

RB James Conner

There’s no bigger story on the opposing sideline this week than Cardinals running back James Conner, a Pitt football legend and the Steelers’ starting running back from 2018-2020. A cancer survivor and Pro Bowl talent, Conner was a fan-favorite and is still well-respected in Pittsburgh despite signing with the Cardinals in 2021.

Conner has remained Arizona’s starter since he joined the team, but he’s struggled with injuries, missing four games this season. Still, he’s a capable runner when healthy, rushing for over 500 yards and two touchdowns in the eight games he’s played in this season, averaging a career-best 5.1 yards per carry. The powerful runner will definitely be playing with some extra motivation as he faces his former team in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

QB Kyler Murray

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was once generally considered one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but playing for an underperforming franchise like the Cardinals, having supposed effort concerns, and dealing with a season-ending injury last year that lasted into the 2023 season certainly hurt his stock. Murray is, simply put, a polarizing figure at quarterback.

Murray will be playing in his fourth game back from injury this season when he takes the field against the Steelers on Sunday. Since returning to the Cardinals lineup, Murray hasn’t exactly catapulted Arizona’s offense to success — he’s thrown only two touchdowns and just over 700 yards in that timespan, with his team going 1-2 in the process. Last week, Murray threw for 256 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Rams.

While Murray is one of the few remaining legitimate starting quarterbacks the Steelers will face for the remainder of the 2023 season, he isn’t exactly performing at a level that makes him look like more of a threat than the likes of Gardner Minshew or Dorian Thompson-Robinson. But Murray still has one trick up his sleeve: his mobility. Murray is as slippery as they come in the pocket and a threat to run, with three rushing touchdowns in as many games this season. Don’t count on Murray shredding the Steelers’ secondary on Sunday, but do expect the Pittsburgh pass rush to have their hands full getting him on the turf.

WRs Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore

Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore may not exactly be the most intimidating receiver combination in the league, but they might be the fastest. Both clocked sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash times entering the league, and they remain deep threats with game-breaking potential in the pros.

The Pittsburgh secondary has actually been playing very well over the past few weeks, but they’re still hardly a group known for their athleticism. Patrick Peterson is 33 years old while Joey Porter Jr. is a long press corner known more for his physicality than pure speed (4.46-second 40-time). Of course, the Steelers will be getting one of the best safeties in the game back in their lineup Sunday in Minkah Fitzpatrick, but keeping up with two speed demons like Brown and Moore will be a tough assignment for anyone coming off a hamstring injury, even All-Pro safeties like Fitzpatrick.

Brown is questionable to play on Sunday, while the Cardinals have already ruled out another one of their top receivers in rookie Michael Wilson. Regardless of whether Brown plays or not, expect to see a lot of Rondale Moore in the Cardinals offense. Kyler Murray will likely try some deep shots Sunday to see how well the Steelers hold up to the Cardinals’ speedy wide receiver room.

S Budda Baker

The Arizona defense isn’t exactly a unit with a lot of big names on it. The exception is safety Budda Baker, a multi-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection who has had a very productive career with the Cardinals.

Regarded as one of the best run-stopping safeties in the league (he’s had 100+ tackles in four of his last five seasons), Baker will undoubtedly play a large role in the Cardinals’ attempts to slow down the Steelers’ run game on Sunday. He’s capable of excelling in a box safety role, where he’ll try to stop Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren from breaking off big runs.

Baker is a versatile playmaker against both the run and pass, but he’s strangely devoid of turnovers this season, something that he hasn’t had much of an issue with in prior years. Baker hasn’t recorded a forced fumble, fumble recovery, or interception yet in the seven games he’s played this year. He’ll likely be looking to break that streak against the Steelers, but Pittsburgh hasn’t given the ball away much this year. The Steelers are tied for the league-lead in turnover differential at +11, with quarterback Kenny Pickett having only thrown four interceptions this year and none in the past seven games. Baker will have a hard time forcing takeaways on Sunday, meaning he’ll make the biggest impact in run support.

All signs point to the Steelers winning on Sunday, but don’t forget that as cliched as it sounds, the NFL is a game of inches. A few yards after contact from James Conner, a few missed tackles on Kyler Murray, a Cardinals’ receiver breaking open downfield, or Budda Baker getting a key third-down stop could all play roles in keeping the scoreboard close. We’ll get to see how it all unfolds as Pittsburgh takes on Arizona at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.