The Steelers are set to face off against the Bengals in a rematch, and here are the burning questions the team will have to answer.
The Steelers pulled off the win last week, and they hope to find similar success against the Bengals this week. Important to note is that this is a Cincinnati team that Pittsburgh has already beaten in week one. It would be huge for this team to pull out a second win against this team later in the season.
It won’t be an easy game by any means. The Steelers benefited from elite defensive play in week one and an offense that managed the game. Joe Burrow tossed four interceptions in that game, but he has since rebounded (he only has six picks this season). Here are the burning questions the Steelers will have to answer if they want to beat the Bengals.
Can the Steelers exploit the secondary?
While the Steelers passing game is far from perfect, they have a huge opportunity in this game against the Bengals. Eli Apple is once again starting, and he has been one of the worst starting cornerbacks in the league. Across from him is rookie Cam Taylor-Britt, who has also taken his lumps this season. This group is one that can be exploited.
The receivers haven’t had much success in recent weeks, but that has been more due to the quarterback play than anything. The Bengals do boast a good pair of safeties, but both of their cornerbacks are liabilities. George Pickens and Diontae Johnson need to exploit these matchups and win on the day.
Can the Steelers keep pressure on Burrow?
The return of T.J. Watt brought back the dominant Steelers pass rush that had been inconsistent since he had left. Sure, Alex Highsmith was still getting after the quarterback and Cam Heyward was his usual powerful self, but Watt brought back the consistency due to teams focusing on him.
Pittsburgh tormented Burrow in week one, and they will need to do so once again if they want to hold him back. The Bengals line, while better than years past, is still a liability. Getting pressure on Burrow and forcing mistakes will end up being key in this game. That is the only reason they won in week one, and it is their best chance to win this week.
Will the Steelers running game stay hot?
Finally! The Steelers got some great production out of their backfield against the Saints. Najee Harris was decisive and ran with good power on the day. Jaylen Warren was a fine complement, and both combined for around 175 total yards against the Saints. This offense is far from fixed, and they will need to move through their running game moving forward.
The Bengals have been a very average team against running backs so far this season. While their linebackers are fine, the interior of the line can be exploited by lines and backs. The team needs to keep both Harris and Warren involved moving forward. The offense is far better when it has a capable running game to support it.
Is Kenny Pickett going to show up?
I have been extremely disappointed with Kenny Pickett’s performance so far in his rookie season. Despite being touted as pro-ready, he has played poorly more often than not and has aided in the overall offensive struggles. His job doesn’t get much easier, as he faces a good Bengals pass rush that will be keyed in on forcing him to make mistakes.
I don’t need Pickett to have some sort of a breakout game. What I need to see though is some basic progression through reads and more accuracy down the field. Add in a few scores and there will be some hope that he can continue to develop moving forward. The offense needs to move through the running game, but Pickett needs to show some more competence as a player.
The Steelers would love nothing more than to win back-to-back games and sweep the Bengals this season. That said, they still have some questions that need to be addressed before they can be counted on to win. All of these questions will have to be answered if Pittsburgh wants a shot at winning.