Sunday Morning Joe: A Top Draft Pick, Future Hall of Famer and Lamar Jackson Are Why the Steelers Won't Overlook the Cardinals
PITTSBURGH -- For a number one draft pick, Kyler Murray's impressive play has been quieter than one would expect. The noise of a new quarterback-head coach duo has seemed to take a backseat to many of the other headlines the NFL has offered this season.
Look inside the play of the Arizona Cardinals', though, and you'll be impressed. A 3-8-1 record may not look pleasing, but the play of their new play caller leaves plenty of hope for what's to come.
While it may slip the mind to remember, "in the NFL there's no easy teams," it doesn't for those inside the locker room. When asked by SteelerMaven what else besides Kyler Murray the Cardinals offense has, Cameron Heyward laughed, then explained how much more the Steelers see then us.
"They don't turn the ball over a lot, he doesn't have a lot of picks, he throws a great ball, and they can run it," Heyward said. "They can run it with him, they can run it with Kenyan Drake, they can run it with DJ [David Johnson]. They're able to run the ball and bleed that clock if they're able to."
As a losing football team, the Cardinals certainly are 'improving'. Any step up from last place is a step forward, even if it's a slow progression.
What they do have isn't limited, it just hasn't seen results. Every team experiences it - Heyward experienced it - and when you know how dangerous a team who is losing is, you never overlook one.
"I see a lot of talent. We go through lumps but they're a good team," Heyward said. "For us to overlook them would be foolish." They haven't played to their standards but I expect them to come out guns blazing."
If the Cardinals are dangerous, it's because of their quarterback. For a rookie, Murray has only throw 6 interceptions this season, and has completed 64% of his passes. Add 446 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns and his first NFL resume sits impressively amongst his peers.
Arizona has used their newest weapon to create momentum for not only their passing game, but the ground attack as well. "It starts with him," Mike Hilton explained. As Murray produces the flow of the game plan, he's been able to utilize his weapons well; Including Larry Fitzgerald, who at 36-years-old, is still playing with plenty left in the tank.
"Everyone knows how well of a runner he is and when you have a guy like Fitzgerald on the outside, he makes Murray's job easier," Hilton said. "Up front we have to keep him contained and then we've got to make sure we contain Larry also."
As a first overall pick, the Cardinals should rely on Murray. Any 'plan' to ease their new quarterback into the pros left as soon as Josh Rosen did. From that moment, the team went through No. 1, and so does their future.
He's not expected to win a Super Bowl now, but the Cardinals and the NFL are looking for something more than ordinary. So far, he's met that standard, and has taken full control of how his team functions.
"He's the number one pick so he's trying to make as many plays as he can," Bud Dupree said. "He's running the ball pretty good; has a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, so that's always good. He's got David Johnson in the back, in the running back spot, so he's got potential to make big plays."
The Steelers aren't strangers to mobile quarterbacks. Many suited in black and gold will need to find ways to spend their careers stopping, or trying to stop, passers like Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield.
It's a new reality for much of the NFL, and one Murray fully represents. His athleticism and ability to make plays with his legs draws comparisons to Jackson, a front-runner for this year's MVP. As the Steelers attempt to slow another running quarterback, they're preparing as if they would for the Ravens, looking to stop plays down field by stopping big-play possibility with the passer.
"Just like Lamar we have to play him similar to that. Same type of situation, we've got to make sure we go out knowing our assignments, knowing or keys, knowing who has who," Dupree said. "That way we can prevent those big plays down the field."
The similarity comes through their skill outside the pocket. While both Jackson and Murray are phenomenal passers, their legs separate them from almost every other quarterback in the league.
"The fact that they can hit the hole and make the defense pay," Heyward described it as. "It's not just a 10-yard run, 20, 30, those dudes know how to extend plays and use their god-given talent."
Now, Pittsburgh is aware the game plans don't revolve solely on the quarterback. Murray, much like Jackson, does control most of what's happening on the field for each play in the playbook, but he isn't the only person Arizona is going to utilize.
"We've got to know what to expect. We know they're not just going to just try to run him every play, but they're going to have designed runs for him," Hilton said. "But they're also going to let him drop back and do what he does best and that's get outside the pocket and make plays. Up front we've got to try and keep him contained and make read coverage."
And like most defenses, the goal is make sure the opposing offense knows not to try too much on Sunday. Stopping Murray is a challenge - and one the Steelers are looking forward to - but one that could be slowed with the right meeting between defender and ball carrier.
"Because they can get guys in space and if they have a one-on-one they think they're going to win," Heyward said as he broke down Murray and Jackson's similarities. "I think the thing you counteract it with is you have multiple guys. You get guys rushing to the ball, because if you can lay the hit on him that makes him less likely to do it again."