'Bold Predictions' is Steel City Underground's feature where our SCU team members have shifted from throwing caution to the wind in how crazy they'll go in their prognostications to a more objective, yet still bold, set of predictions on how Pittsburgh will, or will not, handle business this week.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be on the road in Week 14 of the 2019-20 NFL regular season to go toe-to-toe with the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers have won their last two games and are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. While the Cardinals are just 3-7-1 this season, they aren't a team the Steelers can afford to overlook. "In the NFL there's no easy teams," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said this week. "Everybody says 3-8 teams should be easy, no... we have to go out there and be ready to play." There hasn't been a ton of chatter in the back rooms of 'Team SCU' about "Steelers West" as the Cardinals are often referred to since Arizona has often been the recipient of many players who've moved on from the Steelers over the years, but there are some predictions of note regarding the upcoming matchup.
Here We Go!
A quick look back at last week
Things were not necessarily beautiful in the Steelers' sweet revenge win over the Cleveland Browns. Several of the predictions made by SCU team members were close or spot on, however.
Derek Overly predicted, "James Washington takes another step forward in becoming the Steelers' full-time WR2, going for over 100 yards and another touchdown." Washington did record his first NFL 100-yard game in Week 13 and scored a remarkable touchdown while being interfered with - and, as you can see (photo above), held his focus on at least one other nice contested catch from Devlin Hodges during the game.
Terry Fletcher predicted, "The Steelers defense will be out for blood and Baker Mayfield will run into 5 sacks, 3 from our DPOY T.J. Watt." Pittsburgh did earn five sacks in the game even though Watt was held (literally at times by Browns players at the line of scrimmage) to just 1.0 in the game.
I predicted, "Watch for Bud Dupree to make a big splash play. The Steelers grab a takeaway on defense to add insult to injury as they take care of business at home." Dupree, who logged 1.5 sacks total, made a critical play when he stripped the ball as he sacked Mayfield, allowing the Steelers to obtain possession of the ball. Joe Haden also grabbed the lone interception in the game to allow Pittsburgh's offense to simply enter the victory formation for the win, 20-13.
This week's predictions
Joe Kuzma: It should be fun seeing Arizona attempt to stop, what has previously been, a woeful Steelers offense. This could be the game that rights the ship entirely, with tight ends damaging the Cardinals this season; they've given up 100 yards receiving to the position in every game thus far. That should indicate a 100-yard game for Vance McDonald but my prediction is he falls just short as Nick Vannett eats into that "100". I still don't expect Duck Hodges to sling the ball all over just for the sake of it. Unless the script flips in-game, I predict the Steelers will pound the ball with the run and attempt to play a time of possession game which will see the offense run for over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns instead.
Christina Rivers: With news that James Conner ruled out for this weekend's game, it looks like another chance for Benny Snell Jr. to get the ground game going to open up the passing game for the Steelers offense. I predict that Snell will be just short of 100 yards in the game but that he'll get into the end zone for a score with his nasty ability to gain yards after initial contact. And with JuJu Smith-Schuster looking less than ready by game time, it is a perfect set-up for Hodges to connect with James Washington (who has emerged in a big way of late) but I see Diontae Johnson making himself known against the Arizona defense. Between Washinton and Johnson, I predict the Steelers will grab at least two receiving touchdowns.
Defensively, I can't see the Steelers slowing down in the takeaway department or sack department. Yes, Kyler Murray is a dual-threat quarterback but Pittsburgh has faced Lamar Jackson this season and Murray is not playing at Jackson's level. I predict the Steelers "D" will create at least two turnovers that go in their favor against the Cardinals.
Derek Overly: The Steelers roll into Arizona, riding their prized Duck to yet another victory. This time, the offense will come alive, scoring three touchdowns (2 via the passing game). Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the defense will continue to rack up the turnovers. Sacks won’t be easy to come by with a quarterback like Kyler Murray at the helm, but the pressures will force him into some erroneous throws, 3 of them intercepted. All in all, this will be the best the team has looked all season.
— Wes Uhler (@WesleyUhler) December 1, 2019
Terry Fletcher: The Steelers are coming off of a 2-game winning streak, winning 6 of their last 7 games and now doing it with their “Next Man Up” mentality going with their 3rd-string QB Devlin “Duck” Hodges as they travel to AZ to take on the 3-8-1 Cardinals. The Steelers cannot let this record blind them from what’s ahead. QB Kyler Murray is that ever-elusive mobile quarterback who will give the Steelers pass rush some trouble. Also when the Steelers, specifically under Mike Tomlin, travel west, he’s 2-5.
Now in saying that, "Coach T" has done an impressive job coaching up these young and relatively unknown players from practice squads and couches to be in the wildcard hunt let alone a 6-1 stretch. This is “December Football” and I predict that the Steelers defense embraces the challenges that go with traveling and the ballhawks of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Joe Haden, and Cam Sutton will be making those INTs off of this young QB. A hat trick is predicted here. What the Steelers can’t do is continue to expect to come back when down two scores. I see Pittsburgh getting the early lead with a defensive score and then Duck will let the ball fly in what will be his best game to date with over 300 yards passing. Steelers will win and with already being favored by 2.5 points, I see a 24-7 win and a happy plane ride home to secure that 8th win and another non-losing season for Coach T.