8 Steelers surprises in Sunday’s loss against the Cardinals

Each week our SCU staff and contributors picks the “surprises” from the Pittsburgh Steelers latest matchup. Check out more below to see which plays and situations surprised us the most!

On Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Arizona Cardinals for their Week 13 matchup at Acrisure Stadium.

The Steelers dropped to a 7-5 record with a 24-10 loss. Here are some of the surprises from that game.

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A Loss

Seriously. Who thought the Steelers would’ve lost to a two-win Cardinals team, at home, where the visiting team had been 0-6 all season?

Sunday’s loss was the Steelers worst loss to a team with a similar record this late in a season since 1940. Ouch.

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The Weather

Sunday’s weather had a split personality during the game, starting sunny with the sun beating down on the gold stadium seats and ending with dark gloomy clouds. The dry field would become slick during mist and sometimes downpours of rain, while play was suspended twice for durations due to lightning.

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Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps it was players trying to give it a go with existing ailments, but the Steelers suffered their worst losses of the season throughout this matchup.

Kenny Pickett is expected to miss 2-4 weeks after having surgery on his ankle, following a tackle short of the goalline that caused him to miss the entire second half of the game.

Elandon Roberts, essentially the last of the three starting inside linebackers – who operate as the defense’s version of a quarterback – tried to return late in the second quarter after leaving prior and would also sit the second half. Isaac Seumalo only played half of the game as well, injuring his shoulder. Minkah Fitzpatrick broke his hand, got a cast, and returned to finish the game while T.J. Watt also got dinged up and toughed it out.

It’s unclear at this time how much of an impact those injuries are long-term, other than Pickett, but Pittsburgh surely faced its largest adversity to date with health as they head into a short week to play this Thursday against the Patriots.

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Shotgun on 4th down

Mike Tomlin decided to go for it on a 4th-and-1 right after Pickett left the game, and the Steelers were unable to convert, as Mitchell Trubisky handed the ball off to Najee Harris: out of the shotgun formation.

The playcalling duties had been handed over to QB coach Mike Sullivan, but the playbook is still largely that of the previous offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Yet, I was shocked when the team came out of the huddle and into a formation where RB Najee Harris has had his least success. Had it been Jaylen Warren running from shotgun, there may have been a better success rate – but Harris has not been as effective from that starting position and works best as a downhill runner.

The decision to go for it was waste, but the play selection was baffling at best.

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99-Yard Drive

Follow up the previous section with this stat: the Cardinals took over from their own 1-yard-line and proceeded to run 15 plays for 109 yards on their way to a touchdown before halftime.

The Steelers hadn’t given up a third down conversion to Arizona prior to this drive, where everything unraveled as the team relinquished five opportunities to get the Cardinals off of the field on third downs.

The Steelers would enter the locker room down 10-3 at half and never recover.

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Boswell’s Miss

You know things aren’t going well for the Steelers when Chris Boswell misses a field goal attempt.

Pittsburgh’s consistent kicker was 21 of 22 on field goal attempts coming into this game and had not missed an extra point attempt either. His only miss until Sunday was a 61-yard field goal against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That kick would’ve been an Acrisure Stadium and career long for Boswell, so most overlooked that attempt (especially after being moved back five yards following an offensive offside penalty.)

On Sunday Boswell missed a 45-yarder in the elements as the ball appeared to have the mystery man in the clouds blow it from dead center to outside the uprights.

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Diontae’s Celebration

Diontae Johnson probably forgot the score was 24-3 when he decided to celebrate a late fourth quarter touchdown. Just what was he thinking?

On second thought, this probably isn’t a surprise and the “bad looks” continue to pile up for the talented receiver as he did a half-hearted victory lap following the garbage time grab.

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Run Game

If there was one positive, it’s that the Steelers continued to run the football well despite their setbacks on Sunday.

While their combined 130 rushing yards was the lowest output of the last five games, they have now rushed for 826 yards over that span: an average of 165.5 yards-per-game.

The Baltimore Ravens lead the NFL with 1903 yards rushing, which is an average of 158 yards-per-game. Over their last five games, the Ravens have had a larger total (888 yards) and average (177.6) but Pittsburgh has outperformed everyone else over that span including the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.

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