The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Cincinnati to face off against the Bengals this week. This will kick off week one and a divisional rivalry. The Steelers in history have typically had the Bengals number but the tables have turned, or so it appears they have. Lets take a look at my three key things to watch for.
Can the Steelers stop the run
Last year the Bengals tore up the Steelers run game. Joe Mixon is a top 10 running back in my mind and he will be running behind a new o-line. The Bengals went out and spent some serious cash to help keep Joe Burrow upright and help their run game. The Steelers however, are fully healthy and have some new additions. With Tyson Alualu back after a season ending injury last year the Steelers run defense is immediately better. Sprinkle in the addition of Larry Ogunjobi and Demarvin Leal to help strengthen the defensive front the Steelers should look improved. The Steelers are known for being a great run stuffing team but the wheels fell off on them last year. My take is the team is much improved and healthy and the Bengals will not have a field day on the ground again. I expect Mixon to still have a decent game but nothing like he had last year.
How will the new secondary look
Joe Haden is no longer the cornerback one, so who will take over those duties? All three starting corners in Whisterspoon, Wallace and Sutton are versatile athletic corners. None are a true number one but all can pitch in to be a formidable unite. With the addition of Myles Jack to help stop the run it will free up Minkah to play more naturally to fit him. This will take a lot of pressure off of the corners knowing they have a guy like Minkah on the back end to make sure there are no big plays. With the defensive front I don’t think any of these guys have to be crazy good. Eliminate the big play potential and be fundamentally sound. That paired with this elite pass rushing unit it can help hide any deficiencies the secondary may have. I expect Chase from the Bengals to get his share of plays because he is one of those guys who will always eat. But, with that being said the Steelers can stay true to their philosophy. Bend don’t break and put the pressure on the Bengals in the redzone. I expect a great game out of this unit this week.
How will Mitch Trubisky play
Mitch Trubisky is going to have a much better opening day than people think. He has had plenty time to become accustomed to the playbook and develop some chemistry with key weapons. If this offensive line can be just half way decent there are some opportunities to be effective. We know Najee is going to probably get 25 touches this week minimum and with their new look scheme that actually attacks the middle of the field the Bengals D will have to loosen up a bit and not crowd the box. Say what you want but Mitch is a smart player and he is very capable of running this offense. He looked good in preseason on limited snaps and hardly knowing the playbook. With Chase Claypool mostly being in the slot him and Pat Freiermuth have favorable matchups in the middle of the field.
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