Prior to Sunday’s meeting between Arizona and the Steelers, the Cardinals winning in Pittsburgh was about as rare as a December thunderstorm in Western Pennsylvania.
The Steelers had what they thought was momentum offensively coming into Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. Instead, the momentum was turned early in the game and the Steelers were never able to recover it, as they fell to the Cardinals in a storm-delayed game, giving Arizona its first victory in Pittsburgh since 1969, 24-10.
The loss drops the Steelers to 7-5 this season with a game looming Thursday night at Acrisure Stadium against New England.
“That was a horrible day at the office. We didn’t do much right in that game,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “So we’ve got to own that. Obviously starting first and foremost with me.
“Just losing football, really was. We were highly penalized, some pre-snap penalties, some operational penalties, bad snaps. Just JV football in a lot of ways.”
To make matters worse, quarterback Kenny Pickett suffered an ankle injury late in the first half, while the Steelers also lost inside linebacker Elandon Roberts (groin) and guard Isaac Seumalo (shoulder) to injuries in this game. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was returning to the lineup after missing the past four games with a hamstring injury, also suffered a broken bone in his left hand in the second quarter, though he did not miss any time.
The first half couldn’t have gone much worse for the Steelers, despite moving the ball seemingly at will – except on third downs, where the Steelers were 1 of 6 on conversions in the first 30 minutes.
But two trips inside the Arizona 20 netted just three points, as they stalled on their opening possession when Pickett threw incomplete twice on second- and third-and-5 at the Arizona 11, forcing a 29-yard Chris Boswell field goal.
Their second trip deep into Arizona territory was even more damaging, as the Steelers drove to the 7 with the game tied at 3-3.
The Steelers ran Najee Harris twice for a pair of 2-yard gains, and Pickett scrambled to the 1 on third down. But he suffered an ankle injury reaching for the goal line and left the game.
Backup Mitch Trubisky entered and Harris was stopped for no gain from the 1 turn turn the ball over on downs.
“We’ve got to score points in order to win football games,” said Tomlin. “And so not going to question our aggression there. We’ve got to be able to get a yard.”
To make matters worse, the Cardinals (3-10), who had 26 yards of offense on 18 plays to that point, mounted a drive from there, converting five third downs and scoring just before the half.
Kyler Murray connected with tight end Trey McBride on second-and-goal for what was initially ruled a touchdown, but overturned upon review as Fitzpatrick knocked the ball from his hands as he went to the ground.
Then, on third-and-goal Murray went back to McBride at the goal line for a touchdown that gave Arizona a 10-3 lead at the half.
“That hurt not being able to get off the field on that drive,” said linebacker Alex Highsmith, who had 1.5 sacks in the game. “We’ve got to be a better defense than that.”
After a lengthy delay for lightning in the area, the game resumed with the Steelers getting a three-and-out stop on the Cardinals to start the second half.
But Trubisky, who stayed in the game in place of Pickett, was unable to handle a low snap from center Mason Cole and the Cardinals recovered the loose football at the Pittsburgh 21.
On third-and-goal from the 8, rookie cornerback Joey Porter was penalized for pass interference after getting his feet tangled with wide receiver Greg Dortch, giving the Cardinals the ball at the 1. Two plays later, Conner scored on a run to push Arizona’s lead to 17-3 with 7:18 remaining in the third quarter.
But before the ball could be kicked off again, the game was delayed for a second time.
Even that couldn’t change the momentum for the Cardinals.
Arizona fumbled twice following the second weather stoppage but recovered the loose ball both times.
And when Conner scored his second touchdown, this one from 9 yards out with 8:28 remaining, it was simply a matter of what the final score would be in the game.
The Steelers tacked on a 2-yard touchdown catch by Diontae Johnson from Trubisky with 4:25 remaining to cut the score to 24-10, but the damage was already done.
Conner finished the game with 25 for 105 yards to go with his two touchdowns. Conner had 15 carries for 88 yards in the second half.
“Just lack of execution. Lack of detail. I don’t know what it is,” said Trubisky. “I feel like we had a pretty good plan going into the red zone this week. We just didn’t find a way.
“Whether it’s them making plays and us not, there’s no excuse. We’ve got to find a way to score points somehow. Just gotta maneuver points and just focus when we get down in the red zone. We moved the ball today. But it doesn’t matter when you shoot yourself in the foot and go backwards on plays you shouldn’t.”
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