The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Heinz Field and it will be their first divisional game of the 2016 regular season. Below are seven things that I believe the team will need to do in order to come away with a home win and 2-0 record.
Hurry-up early – The Steelers offense attempted to start Monday night’s game against the Washington Redskins by going hurry-up but after a poor start, they had to abandon it in order to get things back on track. In Sunday’s home opener against the Bengals, it would be nice to see if they can get their hurry-up offense on track right away in an attempt to gas the opposing defense and find out just how conditioned that unit is at the start of the regular season.
Georgia on their mind – In previous games against the Bengals, the Steelers have had success running their Georgia counter to the left side with guard David DeCastro leading the way. Sunday, I’d once again like to see just how good those Bengals linebackers and defensive backs are at coming up and defending pulls to the right side of their defense. If it works early on in the game, I would continue to run the counter until they prove they can stop it.
No Green chunkability – Against the New York Jets last Sunday, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green registered quite a few explosive plays and that included him torching great cornerback Darrelle Revis one-on-one. The Steelers won’t have a cornerback following Green around on Sunday so whichever side that he lines up on, the defense will need to provide substantial help on not only the outside, but the middle of the field as well and especially when they are utilizing their Cover-3 shell. Personally, I’d like to see more Cover-2 run by the Steelers defense in this game as Green can easily work over all of the Steelers cornerbacks when they play loose outside in Cover-3. Green can’t go crazy with chunk plays against the Steelers like he did against the Jets. Make him earn his 100 yards the tough way.
Hi Diddle Diddle, get Cam up the middle – Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward really needs a strong game against the Bengals on Sunday and look for him to pressure their center Russell Bodine and left guard Clint Boling up the middle when the defense utilizes their sub packages. Expect quite a few twist and stunts to be run with Heyward being the center piece as the interior part of the Bengals offensive line had problems with that in Week 1.
Go after Dre – If I’m Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, I would try to get wide receiver Antonio Brown lined up on the right side against Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick as much as I possibly can on Sunday. While Brown can certainly have success against Bengals cornerback Adam Jones as well, Kirkpatrick is the weaker of the two, in my honest opinion.
Feed the Outlaw – We all saw the problems the Bengals defense had last season when it came to them covering Steelers tight end Heath Miller over the middle and as a result of that, young tight end Jesse James could have quite a bit of success against them on Sunday and especially as part of the run/pass option plays that the offense likes to run so frequently. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs to get James involved in the game early with some quick, short passes as well as making him a focal point inside the Bengals red zone.
Keep calm and win – We all know that both of these teams hate each other and based on what has happened in the last few games, the Steelers must remain poised and not let themselves get goated into a bad penalty as you can bet Sundays officiating crew will be on high-alert and willing to throw flags early and often. Thankfully, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict won’t be on the field Sunday to stir things up.