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After 'Embarrassing' Loss, Cardinals Look To Turn Page Against Steelers

The Cardinals had trouble containing the Rams last Sunday.
The Cardinals had trouble containing the Rams last Sunday.

Prior to last week, the Cardinals' 2018 and 2019 seasons were similar in win total but little else.

And then the Rams came to town on Sunday and delivered a 34-7 thrashing that harkened back to that calamitous past.

"To be beat the way we were beat last week was embarrassing, as a professional, as a man," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "To have somebody do that to you on your home field is not a good taste."

While the Cardinals were outclassed in every facet by Los Angeles, that type of blowout has been the anomaly this season, not the norm. While the team didn't hide from its poor play this week, it is anxious to prove that the bad day does not foreshadow a season going off the rails.

The Cardinals (3-8-1) will have a chance to turn things around in Week 14 at home against the Steelers. After the Rams were routed by the Ravens prior to playing the Cardinals, coach Kliff Kingsbury said he was expecting a motivated opponent.

Kingsbury was asked this week if he expects a similar type of rebound from his group.

"I would think so," Kingsbury said. "With the fight I've seen this season, the last game notwithstanding, and the character and the leadership we have in that locker room, I would expect us to have a great week of practice and play a lot better."

The Steelers (7-5) have won six of their past seven games to vault into the second wild card spot in the AFC, but there are many teams on their tail. Pittsburgh has one of the NFL's best defenses, but will be undermanned offensively against the Cardinals.

Running back James Conner (shoulder) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) -- the de facto replacements for longtime stars Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown -- won't play. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) was lost for the season in Week 2, and the Steelers will trot out undrafted rookie free agent Duck Hodges in his place.

Hodges has a quarterback rating of 97.0 and is averaging a gaudy 8.7 yards per pass attempt, but he's only attempted 61 throws and is still far from proven at the professional level.

The Cardinals' defense is giving up a passer rating of 113.5 to opposing quarterbacks this season and allowed a former undrafted quarterback – Carolina's Kyle Allen – to have a career day against it in Week 3. If there is any hope for defensive improvement down the stretch, this seems like the game to kickstart it.

"Everybody has to step it up," safety Budda Baker said.

Even though the Cardinals were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the loss to the Rams, Kingsbury said he will not be making decisions with an eye on 2020.

"We can look at that stuff after the season and really evaluate it, but my job is to win games," Kingsbury said. "I'm really just trying to stay in the moment."

The current moment is a challenging one after the loss to the Rams, but Kingsbury has been happy with the way the players responded. Nothing can erase the blowout, but the performance can be pushed to the rearview with a victory over the Steelers.

"We wanted to get back to how we've been, and I think the practices have been good," Kingsbury said. "Now we've got to go out there and do it."

Images of the shoes Cardinals players will wear Sunday to promote awareness for their cause

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