What We Learned From the Cardinals’ 23-17 Loss to the Steelers

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Much like the weather outside the stadium, things continued to pour for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday after losing 23-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bird Gang fell to 3-8-1 after they couldn’t get it done against a team that missing multiple key contributors on the offensive side of the ball.

Here’s what we learned from the loss:

Short-handed Steelers Find a Way

How do you go on the road in the NFL with your third-string quarterback and second-string running back and get a win? Well it doesn’t hurt that Red Sea was soaked up in yellow Terrible Towels throughout the crowd, but quarterback Duck Hodges made just enough throws to win the game. More importantly though, he didn’t make any throws that could make the Steelers lose the game. 

He completed 16/19 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. He never put the ball in jeopardy and that led to three drives that resulted in field goals. Add in a Diontae Johnson punt return for a touchdown, and the offense put the team in a position to win.

Bad Decisions by Kyler

On the other end, Kyler Murray made some incredible throws to keep the offense moving, but it was three interceptions that did the Cardinals in. The worst of the three came on 4th and 2 from the Steelers’ 6-yard-line. Murray probably had enough space to rush for the first down, but he opted to try to hit Maxx Williams in the end zone. Only problem was T.J. Watt stepped in front of Williams to end the drive.

“I was in coverage, so it was just a matter of if I wanted to step up in contain, but I knew that he wanted to throw,” Watt said. “He’s a throw-first quarterback and then a run-second, so I just didn’t want to bit the cheese and let him throw it right in behind me.”

It was a career-high in interceptions for Murray, who now has nine on the season.

Welcome back, David Johnson

Johnson inexplicably was in backfield purgatory the past few games. He could not seem to crack the lineup consistently since Kenyan Drake was acquired from Miami. On Sunday, he was effective with his three carries, averaging over six yards per carry. He also had a huge touchdown catch – a throw that was nearly picked off – to get the Cardinals back in the game in the 4th quarter. 

Could he see his role expand in the team’s final three games? We’ll have to see.

Christian Kirk

One of the bright spots of the sputtering offense was second-year receiver Christian Kirk, who hauled in eight receptions for 85 yards. On the Cardinals’ most effective drive, Kirk made two key catches to keep things moving. 

The Cardinals’ last home game is next week against the Browns before wrapping up the year on the road in Seattle and Los Angeles.