With the Steelers set to face off against the Bengals in week one, here are five bold predictions for the first game of the season.
The Steelers are set to face off against the Bengals in week one, and no matter what your view on the team is, having football back is a good thing. It has been a very different offseason filled with a lot of new things for this team. Now is the time for practice to be displayed on the field as this team has a lot to prove headlining into the season.
While the starters are already set, there are still a lot of questions that the Steelers need to answer starting with this game. While the first game likely won’t define the season, it will go a long way in seeing what issues are still present with this team. The Bengals are a tough opponent on top of all of this, making this game even more intriguing.
With all of that said, here are five bold predictions for the Steelers first game of the season.
Bush continues on his disappointing path
One of the main talking points of training camp was if Devin Bush can finally look like a capable player after a horrible 2021 season. It was mostly a bad offseason for the former top ten pick though, as he continued with the same issues that had plagued him from before. While he was announced as a starter, I can’t imagine there is a lot of confidence in him.
I don’t think his season gets off to a great start either. The Bengals have a wealth of offensive weapons and an improved line. I think he gets washed out in the running game and continues to be slow to react. While he may make a few plays in coverage, I don’t think it is enough to call it a good game. His leash will be that much shorter after this first game.
Steelers receivers beat up the Bengals secondary
The Steelers passing game has a lot of questions surrounding it right now, and rightfully so. There is a new quarterback, a seemingly bad offensive line, and a relatively young receiver room to top this off. Going up against a less-than-stellar Bengals secondary though, I think the receivers shine in this first game.
To be clear, this doesn’t have anything to do with the line holding its own (I don’t think they will) nor Mitch Trubisky looking stellar (I think he will be average), I think the receivers match up well with Cincinnati’s cornerbacks. In particular, Eli Apple vs. George Pickens as well as Chase Claypool vs. Mike Hilton in the slot look like mismatches.
I think the Steelers receivers all look excellent because of this. No, the team won’t be passing all over the Bengals, but I do think we will see a lot of receivers get open and beat their man. The Steelers match up well here, and it is a way this offense can exploit their defense.
Ogunjobi has a revenge game
I don’t like the idea of a revenge game, especially when the player left on amicable terms. That said, Larry Ogunjobi is primed for a big game. The attention of the Bengals new line will be on reigning defensive MVP T.J. Watt and the ever-present Cam Heyward. That could leave the interior relatively exposed.
I think Ogunjobi looks like his 2021 self against his old team. While the Bengals new line should be better than last year’s version, I still like the Steelers defensive line in this matchup. Expect Ogunjobi to be a benefactor as the attention is turned elsewhere during the game.
Witherspoon holds Chase in check
One of the biggest threats currently on the Bengals roster is second-year player Ja’Marr Chase. He was a sensation as a rookie and was a huge thorn in the Steelers side. On paper, it seems as though they finally have a capable name to match up against him though. Ahkello Witherspoon has the size and athleticism to properly match up against Chase.
This isn’t to say that Chase is completely shut down in week one. He will get his looks and will likely still be productive. That said, I don’t think he burns this defense as he has in the past. I’m relatively high on Witherspoon, and I think he does surprisingly well against Chase in this week one matchup.
Freiermuth is the Steelers go-to guy
If you have been following along with my offseason writing, you know that I am extremely high on second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth. This isn’t merely me being a fan either. Tight ends typically see a jump in production in year two, and Freiermuth was exceptional in year one as a rookie. That is a rare feat for a modern tight end.
The Steelers lost their primary short/intermediate, move the chain’s target this offseason, and I think Freiermuth absorbs those targets. For a team that will likely be hampered by a bad offensive line early on, short and quick passes to a reliable target will be huge. Freiermuth will show that ability off in week one.
I think he goes off for roughly eight catches, around 100 yards, and a score. More importantly, he quickly establishes a rapport with Trubisky, and he remains the safety net moving forward. There is a lot to like about his game as a rookie, and there is good reason to be excited about his potential. I think he showcases all of that in his first game of the season.
There is a lot of anticipation over this first game, as the Steelers have quite a new team that should be taking on the Bengals. Keep these bold predictions in mind as both teams try to start the season of in the winning column.