In a rematch of Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers will continue their playoff push in Week 14 as they visit the Arizona Cardinals. Kickoff is set for 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Fans in local markets can watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Steelers as 2.5-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 43.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 14 NFL betting odds.
While it hasn’t always been aesthetically pleasing or overly impressive, the Steelers continue to quietly be one of the hottest teams in the NFL. After avenging an earlier loss to the Browns last week, Pittsburgh has now won six of their last seven games. While catching the Ravens in the AFC North is unlikely, the 7-5 Steelers are currently tied with the Titans for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC, albeit with two 6-6 teams sitting just a game behind.
With essentially four teams competing over one playoff spot, every game is important and the Steelers can’t afford to slip up late in the year. Pittsburgh’s remaining schedule is somewhat challenging with three of their final four games coming on the road and a home date with the 9-3 Bills sandwiched in between. Even on the road, it’s vital that the Steelers take advantage of facing the lowly Cardinals.
At 3-8-1, the Cardinals have long since left the playoff picture. Arizona showed some signs of hope in Kliff Kingsbury’s first season with a three-game winning streak in October. But the Cardinals are now in the midst of a five-game losing streak that has taken them to the bottom of the NFC West.
To be fair, two of Arizona’s losses during their current losing streak have come against the 49ers while another was a road game against the Saints. However, last week’s 34-7 home loss to the Rams had to be demoralizing for Arizona. With games left against the Browns, Seahawks, and Rams, it’s worth wondering if the Cardinals will win another game this season if they don’t show some signs of life back at home this week against the Steelers.
To be honest, I’m still a little wary of taking the Steelers as a road favorite. Pittsburgh has an inexperienced quarterback and some key players dealing with injuries. Plus, it’s not like they’ve won by a lot of convincing margins this season. But the Cardinals were so bad last week that they almost look like a team that’s checked out. As long as the spread remains less than a field goal, I’ll trust that the Steelers can find a way to avoid disaster by winning and covering the 2.5-point spread.
Two weeks ago, the Steelers benched Mason Rudolph in favor of Devlin Hodges, who is likely to start the rest of the season. Hodges isn’t lighting up the world by any stretch, but he’s handled himself well in the four games when he’s been called upon. At this point, the Steelers aren’t likely to score too many points. However, Hodges looks like he gives them the best chance to win right now.
My biggest concern with the Steelers isn’t Hodges, but rather injuries to James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Conner has been ruled out for Week 14 and Smith-Schuster is likely to be sitting next to him on the bench. However, the Steelers missing those two isn’t a dealbreaker for me. Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels have been solid in place of Conner while James Washington has had 90 or more receiving yards in three of his last four games, scoring three touchdowns during that time. He actually has more receiving yards this year than Smith-Schuster and has become a viable receiving target.
We also can’t forget that Arizona’s defense is one of the worst in the NFL. The Cardinals have given up at least 30 points in four of their last five games during their current losing streak. In fairness, they’ve played some quality teams during that stretch. But the Cardinals have also allowed a minimum of 21 points in every game this year, even against the Bengals and Giants. Even in a somewhat limited Pittsburgh offense should be capable of matching that point total.
Of course, no one can deny that Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray is the ultimate X-factor. Despite coming off a game in which the Cardinals scored just seven points, Murray can be explosive as both a passer and runner. Even if he only plays well for two quarters, he can do enough damage in that time to keep Arizona in the game. However, I’ll put a little faith in the Pittsburgh defense, especially against an atrocious Arizona offensive line. The Steelers have held five of their last seven opponents to 17 points or less, so they should be able to limit Murray, especially after the rookie struggled and took six sacks last week.
Admittedly, I’m a little bullish on the Pittsburgh offense right now, especially with the injuries to Conner and Smith-Schuster. But between Arizona’s ineptness on defense and along the offensive line, the Steelers should be able to out-play the Cardinals on both sides of the ball. As long as the spread is less than a field goal, I have enough trust in the Steelers to cover.