The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn't overcome adversity in Week 13. An early injury to quarterback Kenny Pickett and two weather delays stalled the Steelers' offense in a 24-10 loss against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
The team lost Pickett with roughly five minutes to go before halftime. After a sluggish start, Pickett was in the midst of leading Pittsburgh into the red zone. On a third down at the 5-yard line, Pickett scrambled and dove for the end zone. He was tackled from behind and took a shot to his upper body before he hit the ground at the 3-yard line.
He was able to limp off the field under his own power, and was sent to the blue tent. Pickett later walked off the field into the locker room. He was initially deemed questionable to return, but was downgraded to out during halftime. Pickett finished Sunday's game 7 for 10 for 70 passing yards.
The Steelers decided to be aggressive after Pickett left the game. Mitchell Trubisky was sent in to try and convert on fourth down from the 3-yard line. He handed the ball to running back Najee Harris, who got stuffed at the goal line. The Steelers came away with no points on the drive.
Despite getting the ball back on the 1-yard line, the Cardinals went on a 99-yard drive. Kyler Murray hit tight end Trey McBride for a score with a few seconds to go before halftime.
Cardinals and Steelers get hit with two weather-related delays
With Pickett ruled out, Trubisky was set to take over the rest of the way. Before he could emerge from the locker room to start the third quarter, the game was delayed due to inclement weather.
The teams eventually took the field, and were able to combine for three drives before rain forced another delay.
By the time play resumed, at least one of the afternoon NFL games was already underway. After a three-and-out by the Cardinals, the Steelers took over looking to tie things up. On the seventh play of the drive, Trubisky lost a fumble, giving the Cardinals excellent field position. The team took advantage of that with a James Conner touchdown, which extended the lead to 17-3.
Conner scored another touchdown in the fourth quarter, which appeared to ice the game. The Steelers, however, showed some fight before things were over. Trubisky led a 10-play, 75-yard drive to put the Steelers within two scores with 4:25 left to play.
Pittsburgh never got the ball back. The Cardinals were able to run out the clock with Conner, eventually kneeling down at the end of the game to preserve the win.
Steelers lose playoff ground without Kenny Pickett
The loss puts the Steelers in a difficult spot in the AFC playoff race. They came into Week 13 as the fifth seed in the conference. Both the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts picked up victories Sunday, giving all three teams identical records after Week 13.
Whether Pittsburgh can stay in the race could depend on Pickett's availability. He came into Week 13 questionable due to an ankle injury, but was able to practice in full during the week. Now Trubisky appears to be in line for more starts.
That change won't necessarily doom the Steelers. Pittsburgh has relied on an excellent defense and some clutch plays to put up a 7-5 record in 2023. Whoever lines up under center in Pittsburgh doesn't have to carry the team. They just have to do enough to let the defense do its thing.