Not many people thought the Bengals would be in control of their own fate so early this season. However, the Bengals could still win their division with how weak the AFC North has been. The Steelers have looked very beatable this season. They have an improved defense, but their offense is not looking as good as it has in years past.
Martavis Bryant isn’t having the impact many thought he would, and Ben Roethlisberger has not looked like himself at all this season. This game is key for the Bengals playoff hopes moving forward, and the Bengals and their key players need to perform well for the Bengals to win.
1. Vontaze Burfict
Burfict is one of the best players on the Bengals entire team. He completely changed the defense when he came back and helped the run defense. The Steelers have one of the best running backs in the NFL in superstar Le’Veon Bell, and he has been key to the Steelers season so far.
If the Bengals can focus on taking out the Steelers superstars, then the Steelers will struggle to get much going on offense. Burfict will be extremely important to stopping Bell just as he was key to stopping LeSean McCoy last week. Making the Steelers' offense one-dimensional should be key in the Bengals' game plan.
2. Dre Kirkpatrick
Dre is important for a similar reason to Vontaze Burfict, stopping one of the Steelers superstars. Antonio Brown is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and he dominates most teams in the NFL. The only team who has been able to consistently slow him down across the entire NFL is the Bengals.
A big reason for that is how well Dre Kirkpatrick has played against Antonio Brown. That will need to continue if the Bengals want to beat the Steelers this week. The Bengals need to focus on beating the Steelers two superstars as that will effectively shut down their offense.
3. Andy Dalton
The Steelers are a team that can normally frustrate the Bengals offense pretty well even if their defense struggles against other teams. Dalton has a hard time against the Steelers and can’t get much done against them. He needs to make quick reads and try and not force the ball into too tight of windows. Green is going to need to have a big game and the Bengals need to scheme him into one on one matchups.
4. Trey Hopkins
Hopkins is one of the better stories of the Bengals offseason. He was an UDFA and struggled to stay healthy or make the team. After the team lost Zeitler, there was a hole at right guard, and someone had to fill in.
Most people assumed Andre Smith would take it, but eventually, Hopkins took the job performing pretty well. He was injured in the first game and has had Johnson filling in for him most of the time since.
Johnson has not been performing well, so the Bengals need Hopkins to take all the snaps and play well. Cameron Heyward is a great player, and Hopkins will be key to opening holes and keeping the pocket clean.
5. Joe Mixon
Joe Mixon has finally took the reins of the Bengals rushing offense and has looked pretty good so far. That has not translated to the stat sheets mostly because the offensive line has failed to open holes in the run game. Mixon needs to generate yards and production even if he doesn’t get the help from the offensive line. The Bengals run game will be extremely important, and Mixon needs to show he was worthy of the pick and generate yards even behind the Bengals bad offensive line.
The Bengals are going to have a tough time against the Steelers this weekend. The Bengals can still win the game though if their best players perform well. The Bengals after an awful start to the season are in control of their own fate. This game is key for the Bengals future this season, and the Bengals players need to perform their best and stay out of trouble.