The Pittsburgh Steelers came out swinging. Here’s why they had complete control early against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.
The Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t given much of a chance by experts in Week 1. Earlier in the week, all the professionals at NFL Network predicted the Cincinnati Bengals to run away with this one. I believed that the Steelers would cover the spread this week, but I didn’t foresee them playing as well as they would early in this contest.
In the first half against the Bengals in their season-opener, it was all Steelers. Pittsburgh’s defense looked as sharp as ever as they didn’t allow any room for Joe Burrow to get comfortable at all. After the offense stalled on Mitch Trubisky’s first possession as a Pittsburgh Steeler, the defense really kicked things off with a bang as Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off Burrow and returned it for a score.
Later in the first half, T.J. Watt would pick off Burrow from point-blank range, and Cameron Sutton would add another — bringing Burrow’s INT total up to 3 in the first half.
The defense had some excellent play all around. The Bengals had a chance to jump back in it and make it a one score game before the half after a huge run from RB Joe Mixon, but the Steelers held tough near the goal line and forced a field goal — sending the Steelers into a 7-6 halftime lead.
Steelers defense looks great, but offense must improve
Steelers fans couldn’t ask for much more than what they saw in the first half. Going on the road against the defending AFC Champions, I don’t think anyone predicted they would be up by 11 points after two quarters. While the defense has been outstanding the offense needs to step it up in a hurry.
We can’t expect the defense to maintain such a phenomenal pace — particularly with the takeaways. Offensively, Mitch Trubisky has just 77 passing yards at the half and Najee Harris averaged just 1.5 yards per carry, via ESPN stats. This isn’t good enough to get the job done.
The offensive line has been solid in pass protection, but they need to start paving lanes on the ground. If they can do this, Pittsburgh could eat up a lot of clock in the second half. Trubiksy also needs to start converting third downs and hitting his outside receivers. Diontae Johnson and George Pickens combined for 1 target and 1 receiving yard in the first half.
This game isn’t over yet, and the Steelers need to keep up the intensity. If the offense can be a bit more efficient, the Pittsburgh Steelers could steal an all-important road win against a tough divisional opponent.