One of the biggest misconceptions about the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2023 is that they boast one of the best defensive units in pro football. While the Arizona Cardinals Week 13 opponent excels in creating turnovers (fourth in the league with 20), this defense has its fair share of weaknesses.
The Steelers defense also allows 5.4 yards per play, which is tied for the 10th-highest in the NFL. In case you’re curious, the struggling Cardinals defense has allowed 5.5 per, which is tied for the seventh-highest, so if we’re counting total defense, Pittsburgh’s isn’t much better than the Redbirds.
The Steelers have also allowed 6.1 net passing yards per attempt through the air, which ranks in the middle of the league, and their 4.3 rushing yards per attempt allowed is the 11th-highest. Therefore, Pittsburgh, despite having allowed just 205 points and creating turnovers on an astounding 16.1 percent of all drives, has its vulnerabilities.
Arizona Cardinals can win in Week 13 if they take care of the ball
What’s more is that offensive coordinator Drew Petzing should have had the message sink in last week over what happens when you try to implement an offensive approach reminiscent of the Kliff Kingsbury era with Kyler Murray at quarterback. Therefore, expect a more conservative approach this week as the Cards try to get the ball into James Conner’s hands often with Emari Demercado and Michael Carter supplementing.
Since T.J. Watt won’t give Murray much time to throw, expect short, quick passes to the likes of Trey McBride if he’s good to go and to the speedy Greg Dortch and Rondale Moore, often on rollouts. A run-first, dink-and-dunk game can circumvent a Steelers defense that has thrived on takeaways this season.
Overall, while it’s true Pittsburgh has a good defense, it’s also true that they have primarily built their reputation on turnovers and off of T.J. Watt’s All-Pro-caliber pass-rushing. But if the Arizona Cardinals stick to the run primarily, and put Murray and Company in a position to minimize mistakes, there could be an upset brewing in the Steel City.
(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)