Rapid reactions: Cardinals stun Steelers in dominant Week 13 win

Dec 3, 2023, 4:12 PM | Updated: Dec 4, 2023, 9:19 am

The Arizona Cardinals weren’t picked by many to walk out of Pittsburgh with a victory.

Four quarters later, though, it was the visitors celebrating at Acrisure Stadium behind a 24-10 win over the home team.

For yet another game, second-year pro Trey McBride shined with eight catches for 89 yards and a touchdown, while running back James Conner in his return to Pittsburgh surpassed the century mark on the ground (105) to go along with a pair of scores.

Defensively, starting linebacker Josh Woods, who is filling in for the injured Kyzir White, led the way with 11 tackles, one of which was for a loss.

Arizona Sports’ hosts, editors and reporters break down what they saw in the Cardinals’ third win of the year:

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo:

Most of this season has been about Kyler Murray. But today I felt a sense that it was more about James Conner.

With the veteran running back and Cardinals clubhouse leader reuniting with the city he called home for 8 years — four in college and four in the NFL — there was a major emphasis placed on his return. And he did not disappoint — at least not the Cardinals fans. Conner had two touchdown runs, he ran for 105 yads on 25 carries and he punctuated his outstanding day with two big first-down runs of 10 and 11 yards in the final two minutes to seal the victory. He led the way as the Cardinals won their first road game of the season, first since Week 10 of last season and picked up their third win of the year.

Kyler Murray did not turn the ball over, only completed 13 passes — 8 to Trey McBride who continues to establish himself as one of the up-and-coming elite tight ends in the game and overall had a decent outing considering the wet conditions and the fact that Arizona got to play with the lead.

The Cardinals ran the ball 38 times to only 23 passes. That outstanding Kyler Murray game has yet to happen, but today they did not need it as a stout defense, which had a tremendous goal line stand that set up a 99-yard touchdown drive by Kyler, and the Cards running game won the day. I did think that on that 99-yard TD drive Kyler was at his best converting four third downs with his passing.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta:

Just what we all expected, right?

After getting manhandled by the Rams a week ago, it was the Cardinals’ turn to dish it out in a strange 24-10 win over the Steelers in rainy Pittsburgh.

This game swung in the second quarter. Tied 3-3, Kevin Strong and Jesse Luketa bottled up Najee Harris on a 4th-and-goal look at the one-yard line. Then Kyler Murray marched the Cards down the field on a 99-yard scoring drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass to Trey McBride. The Cardinals converted five third downs on the drive.

That swing, along with two weather delays and an injury to quarterback Kenny Pickett, seemed to sap any mojo the Steelers had left.

Although he hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to show it in the last two seasons, James Conner excels when the Cardinals are playing with a lead and need to run the football. Conner’s battering-ram style wore down the Pittsburgh defense and he got stronger as the game went on, finishing with 105 yards and two touchdowns. The stiff-arm he delivered to Patrick Peterson on the sideline was borderline felonious. It was really the only way to know Peterson was on the field — he didn’t register a statistic in the game.

Murray was decent. I don’t think any quarterback could have excelled in those weather conditions, but Murray settled down and did what he needed to do to deliver a win.

The Arizona defense was excellent all day long.

Just a solid, workmanlike effort/win for the Cardinals — their first in Pittsburgh since 1969.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo:

I don’t know how many wins the Cardinals are going to end up with, where they’ll draft and who they’ll take. I certainly don’t know if one series in one twice delayed December game of a lost season is going to change how we evaluate this year or Kyler Murray. Truthfully it more than likely won’t. But… that 99-yard drive was fun wasn’t it? And beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in a game where the Cards were massive underdogs, was fun. Fun has been in short supply with this season. We haven’t had a whole lot of it since that day against Dallas and just typing that makes it feels like eons ago.

Set up by the Cards defense stoning the Steelers on the goal line on 4th down, the Cards offense responded by driving 99 yards and converting five different third downs. More than anything the drive may be defined by the budding bromance between Murray and tight end Trey McBride, who had five catches for 49 yards on the possession. The best part was after being deprived of a touchdown after video review, the two had a “fine, we’ll do it again” moment reminiscent of Gabriel Moreno’s home-run-not-a-home-run-screw-it-I’ll-hit-another-one moment against the Dodgers (great catch, Luke Lapinski). It made for an awesome moment; it led to a most unlikely road win, the first for the Cards in over a year.

The game also showed that supporting Kyler Murray with an effective run game is the very way to get the most out of him. Drew Petzing admitted earlier in the week he erred by not giving Conner the ball enough last week. The correction worked and going forward, surrounding Murray (assuming he’s here — who knows) with a stable of running backs has to be a priority.

Tyler Drake, Arizona Sports Cardinals reporter, co-host of Cardinals Corner:

James Conner’s homecoming did not disappoint.

After a questionable showing and game plan that went away from the run game far too early against the Rams a week prior, the Cardinals strolled into soggy Pittsburgh and absolutely dominated.

Getting back to the basics, the Cardinals made sure to feed Conner early and often. And after the running back’s slow start in the first half, he took over behind 105 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

The game flow dictated a lot of Conner’s usage, with the Cardinals never trailing for the final three quarters, but the concerted effort to get the bellcow back involved from the jump must be followed moving forward.

As for Murray, he didn’t blow me away, but did have a few passes that should have resulted in touchdowns — Rondale Moore’s catch negated due to penalty stands out more than any of them. He did, however, do enough to keep drives alive and above all else, didn’t give the ball back to the defense despite the less-than-ideal weather in the Steel City.

Defensively, Josh Woods gets a ton of credit for getting the unit set on top of adding a team high 11 tackles in the win. Safety Jalen Thompson (seven tackles) continues to impress this season, too.

Arizona’s win over the Cowboys was far and away the best win under head coach Jonathan Gannon entering the tilt.

It’s now second fiddle after Sunday’s victory over one of the most consistent franchises in all the land.

In the grand scheme of Arizona’s rebuild/reset, these are the kind of victories that are going to be looked back on for years to come.

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