clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why the Bengals should beat the Steelers – Reason #4: Steelers’ pass defense

The Steelers' passing defense has been susceptible lately to a less than stellar group of signal callers. Can the Bengals and AJ McCarron take advantage of this?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Before you ask, no I did not give a reason #1, #2, or #3. I started with Reason #4. I did it mostly in honor of the new Star Wars movie that was recently released. Back in 1977 the first Star Wars movie was released as "Episode 4", and here's to hoping that the Bengals' playoff run will be as successful as Star Wars Episode 4 was. Also, if you really want Reasons #1, #2 and #3, we can just just go back years later and fill them in then - but without Jar Jar Binks, of course.

Looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers' last four games - since their most recent encounter with the Cincinnati Bengals --their pass defense has been somewhat vulnerable. They have given up an average of 273 passing yards per game. And keep in mind, they are not giving up chunks of yardage to well-established quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers. They are giving up yardage to a group of young, unproven backups.

  • AJ McCarron: Playing his first significant NFL minutes after an early game injury to Andy Dalton unexpectedly forced him into the lineup.
  • Brock Osweiler: A career backup, playing his first partial year as a starter.
  • Ryan Mallett: Playing his first game for the Ravens, having signed with them only days prior.
  • Austin Davis: The Browns' third string quarterback, with nearly nobody to throw the ball to.
Comp Att % Yard Y/A TD TD % INT INT % QBR
AJ McCarron 22 32 68.8% 280 8.8 2 6.3% 2 6.3% 90.6
Brock Osweiler 21 44 47.7% 296 6.7 3 6.8% 1 2.3% 83.1
Ryan Mallett 28 41 68.3% 274 6.7 1 2.4% 0 0.0% 95.0
Austin Davis 24 46 52.2% 240 5.2 0 0.0% 2 4.3% 73.6

Aside from Austin Davis' performance for the train wreck of a franchise situated on Lake Erie, the Steelers have been giving up an average quarterback rating of 90 to a group of quarterbacks who are borderline NFL starters, and all started the year as backups before being forced into their roles against the Steelers due to injury.

Consider McCarron, who is averaging only 184 passing yards per game over the last three weeks, threw for almost 100 more yards (280) against the Steelers' pass defense with no NFL starts under his belt. McCarron also completed 68.8% of his passes, and tossed a pair of touchdowns for a good 6.3% touchdown rate. And that was coming in cold, off the bench, receiving few repetitions during practice, since he was the backup.

Now fast-forward a month, and McCarron has had a month of practice reps as the starter. Not only that, but he has essentially four full games of full-speed NFL experience to his name. And in those four games, McCarron has acquitted himself well enough, completing over 66% of his passes for six touchdowns, and only two interceptions. As a starter, McCarron has no interceptions.

Looking ahead to the Bengals vs Steelers game, we have a Steelers' defense that has been giving up passing production to unestablished, backup quarterbacks, and we have a Bengals' quarterback who not only played decently against the Steelers the first time he played them, but who now has a full month of experience to utilize in his second matchup against Steely McBeam's squad.