The Pittsburgh Steelers must have two targets heading into their season opener Sunday in Cincinnati.
• Make this opener appearance as similar to the one closing yr in Buffalo as conceivable.
• Make this recreation as unrecognizable as conceivable when evaluating it to the 2 video games in opposition to the Bengals closing season.
The Steelers misplaced the ones video games 24-10 at house and 41-10 in Cincinnati. The Bengals almost definitely may just’ve made the margins worse. Cincy was once very a lot in regulate during each contests.
The Bengals roster is returning in large part intact in comparison to the person who trampled the Steelers en path to an AFC North championship. In the meantime, the hope in Pittsburgh is that adjustments within the intensity chart and advanced well being alongside the defensive entrance will supply a stiffer take a look at for Cincinnati this time round.
If this is to occur, listed here are a couple of spaces the place the Steelers protection can rewrite the script and keep away from what can be a 3rd immediately loss in Cincinnati and fourth in a row total in opposition to their AFC North rival.
• Exploit the exploitable: The Bengals controlled to paintings round offensive line deficiencies the entire technique to Tremendous Bowl LVI. However that’s the place the bubble burst in opposition to Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams defensive entrance.
Quarterback Joe Burrow was once sacked seven instances in that recreation. He was once sacked an NFL-high 51 instances throughout the common season.
“They’re already one of the crucial best groups on this league. And I think like perhaps they have been simply an O-line wanting profitable all of it,” Steelers defensive lineman Tyson Alualu mentioned. “However they introduced in some vets, and so they were given new guys around the offensive line. This shall be a just right take a look at to look the place we’re.”
But the Steelers — with their NFL-leading 55 sacks in 2021 — sacked Burrow best two times in 44 dropbacks closing season. Granted, superstar go rusher T.J. Watt overlooked the primary recreation between the golf equipment as a result of damage, however that’s nonetheless a disproportionate consequence given what must were a mismatch in Pittsburgh’s desire.
The Bengals modified 4 in their 5 beginning offensive linemen throughout the offseason. Everybody except for left take on Jonah Williams is new. Heart Ted Karras (New England), proper guard Alex Cappa (Tampa Bay) and proper take on (Los angeles’el Collins) performed somewhere else closing season, and left guard Cordell Volson is a rookie.
The Steelers want to create go power whilst the Bengals offensive line continues to be coming in combination and will have some problems with concord.
“They concept they have been bringing in higher avid gamers,” Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin mentioned. “We all know Frank (Pollack) is a high quality offensive line trainer. He does an ideal process. The ones guys shall be taught smartly. They’ll paintings in combination smartly. It’s our process to play higher than they do.”
• Comprise Joe Mixon: The Bengals operating again had 90 yards on 18 carries within the first recreation between the groups. He popped off for 165 yards on 28 carries the second one time.
Former Bengals defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi joined the Steelers this summer season. He is aware of how tough dealing with Mixon will also be.
“He’s a different man in the case of operating that soccer. We’ve were given a tall order,” Ogunjobi mentioned.
The Steelers have been closing within the NFL in opposition to the run a season in the past, permitting 146 yards in keeping with recreation. However Watt must be wholesome on this recreation. Alualu didn’t play in opposition to the Bengals closing yr. Stephon Tuitt overlooked all of 2021, and Ogunjobi has been signed to fill that void.
So the Steelers are banking on an advanced entrance to make existence harder for Mixon.
“We haven’t proven our complete hand (within the preseason) at preventing the run,” Watt mentioned this week. “I’m very ok with the place we’re within the recreation plan and the place we’re having the additional week getting ready for those guys. I’m taking a look ahead to righting the flawed in the case of the Steelers preventing the run.”
• Pick out your poison: The Steelers have to determine a technique to prohibit the have an effect on of Cincinnati’s trio of impactful receivers. They did a good process on Pitt product Tyler Boyd, maintaining him to simply six catches for 49 yards within the two video games closing yr. However he did catch a landing go in Recreation 1.
Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins have been the larger issues. Chase had 4 catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns within the first recreation at (what was once) Heinz Box. Higgins exploded for 6 catches for 114 yards and a landing in (what was once) Paul Brown Stadium after lacking the primary recreation.
“The ones are nice receivers,” Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace mentioned. “The ones are recreation wreckers, all 3 of them. 3 other ability units.”
One key for the Steelers is to do higher on first and 2nd downs. Return and have a look at the Cincy landing drives within the first part of that 41-10 blowout. The primary one was once the hole pressure of the sport. It lasted 10 performs. Just one snap was once a 3rd down, and it was once third-and-1.
The Bengals’ 2nd TD pressure to make the ranking 17-3 began at their very own 25. It was once six performs lengthy. Burrow by no means even noticed a 3rd down. The 0.33 landing jaunt was once a 14-play romp that traveled 84 yards. Cincinnati best had one 0.33 down snap longer than a third-and-5. Burrow wanted 12 yards on a 3rd down, and he hit Higgins for 16.
To the former level, if Mixon will get going and Burrow has choices on 2nd and 0.33 downs with manageable distances, the Bengals will consume up the Steelers once more.
“It’s no secret they’re a sexy balanced offense. They have got numerous key guns on the ability positions,” Watt mentioned. “We need to identify that we will be able to prevent the run. No longer best in opposition to the Bengals however the entire season. That’s what environment a tone early is.”
Clearly, the offense must do a greater process as smartly. It must possess the ball longer. Conserving it for not up to 25 mins in Recreation 2 was once an issue. A blended 5 turnovers in two video games was once a larger drawback. So was once the truth that the Steelers controlled simply 51 yards and 45 yards dashing within the two video games.
However Matt Canada’s new-look offense has quarterback Mitch Trubisky making his debut. The reconfigured offensive line must paintings its approach into consistency. So the protection goes to have to hold the burden early within the season.
It did the process closing yr in Buffalo in opposition to a just right offense to win the sport 23-16. That unit must do one thing an identical Sunday afternoon to open 2022. Another way, this unexpected drought of wins in opposition to the Bengals will without a doubt proceed.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Overview group of workers creator. You’ll be able to touch Tim at [email protected] or by the use of Twitter. All tweets may well be reposted. All emails are topic to newsletter until specified differently.