The Steelers come into Week 13 with a golden opportunity. With a win, they would be 8-4, which is as close to a guaranteed playoff spot as you could get in a loaded AFC Wildcard race.
The Steelers have won their last four against the Cardinals, and they’ll make it five in a row if they can do these three things.
1. Run the hell out of the ball
The Cardinals have given up the second-most rushing yards of any team this season, ahead of only the Denver Broncos. They’ve also given up the most rushing first downs this season with 101- the next closest team is the Giants with 93.
The Steelers have been amongst the top rushing teams in the NFL since Week 8, ranking fourth in the league in rushing success rate in that span. The gameplan for the Steelers should be straight out of 1974- pound the ever living hell out of the ball. Run it until the Cardinals show they can stop you. If that means running it 35-40 times, so be it. This should be a big day for both Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris.
2. Contain Kyler Murray
The Cardinals have a lack of special talent offensively, but their quarterback sure doesn’t. Murray has the ability to create and go off script when necessary, and his running ability is well documented.
Even if the Steelers keep Murray in the pocket for the most part, he has one of the five strongest arms in the game today and can absolutely sling it downfield. While the likes of Greg Dortch and Hollywood Brown may not fill teams with the fear of God, Pittsburgh’s secondary hasn’t exactly been the best unit in the league this season outside of Joey Porter Jr. Keeping a lid on the Cardinals’ passing game is a must for the defense.
3. Protect the middle of the field
This will have to be a big Elandon Roberts and Mykal Walker game. The Cardinals target the middle of the field at the fifth highest rate in the NFL with an average depth of target of 8.2 yards. That means that linebackers covering tight ends, and nickel corners lined up against Rondale Moore will need to be on their toes and ready to prevent big gains between the hashes.
Teams have had success against the Steelers targeting the middle of the field this season (see Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 3 and Brock Purdy in Week 1 for the most extreme examples). That said, that is prime territory for a returning, and lurking, Minkah Fitzpatrick to get his first interception of the season should Murray and the Cardinals get too greedy.