After a week off, the Bengals travel to Pittsburgh to take on the league’s lone remaining undefeated team. Could this be the moment this team turns the corner and establishes itself as a true competitor?
Here is what they need to do to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Give Burrow Time
The Bengals rolled out a bunch of backups on the offensive line in Week 8 and managed to protect Joe Burrow, but that was the Titans and this is the Steelers. The Steelers have a plethora of talented pass rushers led by but not limited to T.J. Watt.
It is unclear at the moment which offensive linemen will be available and who will get the start, but the Bengals need to figure out a way to give Burrow the time he needs to find open receivers.
The Steelers have struggled to stop the run with Tyson Alualu sidelined by injury. If he is out again or limited this week it could create an opportunity for the Bengals to get their run game going. If the Steelers are threatened by the run game, they will have to alter how they deploy their defensive line, which will make pass protection much easier.
Get After the Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger needs to be pressured. If they let him sit in the pocket like a flag football quarterback, eventually he will connect with his receivers for a big play. This cannot happen.
Carl Lawson is the only Bengal who has been able to generate much pressure this season. They need to find a way to get to the quarterback. More blitzes and line stunts could help, but they need to make sure the coverage behind the pressure is sound as well.
Win the Middle 8
2-minute defense has been a problem for the Bengals this season. Last week the Cowboys gave up 9 points to the Steelers in the last 70 seconds of the 1st half and lost the game by 5 points.
The Bengals need to win the middle 8 (last 4 minutes of the 1st half, first 4 minutes of the 2nd half). They need to be the last team to score going into the half and the first team to score after halftime.
Step up at the Right Time Defensively
The best scenario for the Bengals it that this game becomes a shoot out. If Burrow and Roethlisberger combine for over 700 yards, the Bengals have a good chance.
Oddly though, shootouts often come down to one defense stepping up and making a play. In this scenario neither defense is going to come out of the game looking good, but if one can get a few key stops or even better a timely turnover, it could make all the difference.
Keep your Foot on the Gas
The Bengals need to keep coming to win this game. It is not enough to get the lead, they need to build on it.
The Cowboys knew that. That’s why they did a throwback punt return with a 10-point lead. Their problem was that they couldn’t finish drives in the end zone. They settled for field goals 4 times and were 0-2 in the red zone including a devastating interception.
The Steelers can score fast when they are clicking and the Bengals defense has been known to give up some big plays.
Pittsburgh is 8-0 this season, but that’s just the headline. The real story is that they are 5-0 in 1-score games. They find a way to win. When other teams make mistakes, the Steelers don’t let them off the hook. If the other team settles for field goals, they find a way crawl back to take the lead.
If the Bengals are able to get ahead, they must continue to build on their lead. They cannot afford to give Pittsburgh any opening to come back.