This could truly be a clash of NFC/AFC powerhouses with an outside chance and way too early prediction of a Super Bowl matchup. That said, big things are expected from both teams for the remainder of 2015 - health permitting - and this contest will serve as a solid barometer of how the two conference’s stack up against each other.
Yes, Ben Roethlisberger is still out but Michael Vick is gaining momentum in this Steelers' offense. VIck has been helped tremendously by the return of RB Le'Veon Bell who has re-established himself as the best back in the NFL after missing the first two games of the season due to a suspension.
Vick has been more a game manager since taking over for Big Ben but flashes of his old dominate self came out last week agains the San Diego Chargers. The Cardinals defense will need to keep a close eye on Vick and limit the damage he can do with his legs. If Arizona can force Vick to beat them with his arm, its chances of winning on the road will increase dramatically.
Offensively, coach Bruce Arians is expected to be as aggressive as ever returning to his old stomping grounds in Pittsburgh. Arians was fired from the Steelers a few years back so we're guessing there's still a bit of a grudge there.
QB Carson Palmer has been on fire this year (completing 65% of his passes with a QB Rating of 114.0) and he now has three established wideouts in Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd to throw to. Look for two of the three to surpass 100 yards receiving on the day.
On the ground, RB Chris Johnson has been arguably one of the biggest surprises across the entire NFL thus far. Johnson was a late free-agent pickup due to the injury of Andre Ellington but Johnson has been tremendous averaging over five yards per carry on the year.
This matchup always has back stories as Arizona has become a popular landing spot for ex-Pittsburgh players and coaches while a few have gone the other way. The two obvious names are Arians, who spent significant time with the Steelers and offensive coordinator Todd Haley who did the same with Arizona. These two organizations certainly know each other well and both will be prepared.
Steelers player to watch: WR Martavis Bryant
Everyone knows about Pro Bowl wideout Antonio Brown, but not everyone knows about Bryant – at least not yet. The Steelers will deploy one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL (when Roethlisberger is healthy) but the Cardinals will get a break with him still on the sideline. That said, this is Bryant's first game back from a suspension and the Arizona secondary will need to closely monitor the speedy deep threat.
If they can do that and keep Vick and Bell at bay on the ground, look for the Cardinals to prevail against the Roethlisberger-less Steelers.
Prediction: Arizona 31 Pittsburgh 20