The Pittsburgh Steelers have won seven of their most recent nine games and have vaulted themselves into the hunt for a playoff berth. While the Baltimore Ravens appear destined to win the AFC North Division, perhaps even the Super Bowl, the Steelers recent success followed losses in their first three games.
Teams that lose their first three games and then go on to make the playoffs are about as rare as a four-year-old turning down an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. But, with their success over the past two months, Mike Tomlin has elevated his team to the number two Wild Card spot in the American Football Conference.
Last Sunday, the Steelers also got some revenge on the team that beat them just two weeks ago and ended the night in Cleveland with a fight that escalated to one of the all time wars on an NFL field. With the Browns just 5 seconds away from clinching a 21-7 win over the Steelers, ending an eight game and four year drought for the Browns against Pittsburgh, Steelers Quarterback Mason Rudolph got tangled with Browns defensive lineman Miles Garrett.
Instead of the scuffle soon ending in a ceasefire, the tussle escalated to activity that on any street in the USA would have brought criminal chargers when Garrett used Rudolph’s own helmet as a weapon against the quarterback. The blow fortunately didn’t do as much damage to the head of Rudolph as it could have, but the ensuing investigation by the league resulted in the suspension of the Browns defensive lineman for the rest of this season.
On Sunday, in Pittsburgh, the Steelers got revenge for both the loss on the scoreboard and the fight with a 20-13 home win over Freddie Kitchens team. That victory, coupled with Sunday losses by the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders, moves Pittsburgh into the final playoff seed from the AFC with a 7-5 won/loss record.
Meanwhile, while the Steelers were celebrating results both on their home field and two other NFL stadiums, the Arizona Cardinals were absorbing the wrath of the defending NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams, 34-7. The Rams had been blasted in their previous game by AFC leading Baltimore, 45-6, and took out their frustrations on the overmatched Cardinals.
In other words, last week was very good for the Steelers and very bad for the Cardinals.
So, what do you think is likely to happen next?
First, Pittsburgh’s success to move into a prime playoff position is admirable after their disappointing season start, but to think they are now headed for the postseason is to dismiss the possibility that the Steelers have won their last game of 2019.
This week, they take their two-game winning streak to Arizona to battle a Cardinals team with nothing left to play for other than to upset an opponents playoff plans. In fact, that can be very good motivation for a young Cardinals team.
Behind rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, the Cardinals have rose to respectability despite their shellacking last week. The Cardinals have a point spread record better than some teams you might hold in higher regard. The Cardinals, against the line in 2019, are 7-4-1, a point spread mark that is as good or better than the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings.
It is also better than this week’s opponent, the Steelers, who come to Arizona with a 6-5-1 point spread mark.
This week, we suspect the point spread gap between the Cardinals and Steelers will widen with a Cardinals home win on Sunday. It’s simple, the Steelers are coming off a big week and Arizona off a crushing loss. In preparation for their next game, the loss provides a much better springboard for success this week.
Qoxhi Picks: Arizona Cardinals (+2½) over Pittsburgh Steelers