GLENDALE, Ariz. _ The offense possessed the ball and even managed to build on a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but it was still up to the defense to finish off the Cardinals.
The Steelers' defense wouldn't have it any other way.
"Definitely, we love that," outside linebacker Bud Dupree said.
Added cornerback Joe Haden: "We feel like if we're in a position for the defense to close it out, we got the guys. We're not nervous. We're not scared. We just feel like, if they put the ball in our hands and there's a chance that we can close it out, we honestly feel like we can do it."
Sunday's 23-17 victory at State Farm Stadium couldn't have been closed out in a more resounding fashion.
On first-and-10 from the Arizona 25-yard line with 1:42 left in regulation, defensive tackle Cam Heyward sacked quarterback Kyler Murray.
On second-and-15 from the Arizona 20, Dupree sacked Murray.
On third-and-22 from the Arizona 13, Murray threw incomplete under intense pressure.
And on fourth-and-17, following a neutral zone infraction, Murray threw under intense pressure again and was intercepted by Haden, Haden's second interception on the afternoon and the third suffered by Murray.
"That last series, we were a thirsty bunch," Heyward said.
Murray was sacked five times, including twice on his final four passing attempts.
The Steelers dialed up the pressure at the end, in part, because they could.
Due to Murray's ability to scramble and carry the ball on designed runs, the Steelers went with a three-man pas rush for most of the game, Heyward said, with inside linebacker Vince Williams and outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Dupree "spying" Murray at times.
But Murray running wasn't a concern in the final two minutes.
"When we got that four-man rush, we really lit our hair on fire," Heyward said.
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 14 game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium
A DIFFERENT DUCK: The Steelers got the ball back with 6:38 left in regulation leading, 20-17. But this time they didn't load up with eligible offensive linemen and run the ball initially, they deployed three wide receivers and they came out throwing.
They attempted four passes and ended up with two completions for a combined 27 yards and a 24-yard penalty for defensive pass interference on what became an 11-play, 77-yard drive for a field goal in 5:02 that upped the lead to six.
"Coach trusts us," guard Ramon Foster said of head coach Mike Tomlin. "His confidence in 'Duck' is growing. He's becoming a sharp guy, it's kinda cool to watch."
Quarterback Devlin "Duck" Hodges finished 16 of 19 passing, for 152 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions, and carried five times for 34 yards.
"Just as a pro, he's understanding a whole lot of stuff," Foster continued. "He's understanding the pocket presence, he's making plays. His rollout today was one that you're like, 'OK, he's getting comfortable.'
"And you just have to respect that aspect of it, I love it."
CONFIDENCE GROWING: The win over the Cardinals was the Steelers' third straight and eighth in 10 games since their 0-3 start.
The effect on their collective confidence is something the players were recognizing and embracing after the Arizona game.
"All-time high, man," nickel cornerback Mike Hilton said. "To be in this position, we're still going to take it one game at a time, but we keep playing like we're playing we can make noise.
"It just shows what type of resilient team we are, going through what we've been through all season. Just seeing how we bounce back and prepare, I love this team, we play together."
THE NEW NORMAL: Hodges improved to 3-0 as a starter and beat a team with a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback for the second consecutive game (Murray, No. 1 in 2019, after besting Baker Mayfield, No. 1 in 2018, and the Browns on Dec. 1).
With each week he looks less like a last resort and more like a viable option, less like an out-of-nowhere phenomenon and more like a player who, given an opportunity, is potentially capable, as most backups with a more traditional resume and entry into the NFL are perceived to be in the early stages of their careers.
"I don't know how you want to define normal," Hodges said. "It's just great to have another chance to play. The confidence and the comfort level just comes with playing a lot and practicing.
"Obviously, the more you practice and the more you play, the more comfortable you get."