The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a win for only the second time this season. This is their second opportunity to stack wins, but this time, they will attempt to do so against a team with a 4-1 record. While the Steelers have done well against the Cincinnati Bengals—they have won the past six meetings, and nine of the last 10—this is the first time since 2015 that they have been the team with the worse record.
For me, the biggest thing that I will be watching for is to see if the Steelers’ defense continues its progression of sorts that it showed last week against the Atlanta Falcons. While they were not turning the ball over prodigiously, they made key stops fairly routinely.
A lot of that had to do with the pressure of players such as T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, but the coverage was also critical, including the coverage of Joe Haden against Julio Jones. Will Haden also be deployed against A.J. Green today?
With Morgan Burnett out again, will rookie Terrell Edmunds continue to pick up his play? the first-round pick has made a lot of mistakes over the course of the first five weeks, but last week’s game was the cleanest that he has played so far, particularly from an assignment standpoint.
The front seven must contain running back Joe Mixon, and that includes the inside linebackers in coverage. He has nine receptions for 79 yards in three games so far this year, along with a touchdown, but always threatens to do more. He has averaged about 90 rushing yards per game as well and his averaging 4.5 yards per carry, despite having a long run of 31 yards.
On the opposite side, will James Conner be featured early in the game as he was last week, and in the opener? He rushed for over 100 yards in both games, which were easily his best of the season. They are also the only two games in which all five starting linemen played healthy, other than a Week Four game.
Was the second half of last week’s game the critical turning point for the connection between Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown? They converted I believe four of five targets for over 80 yards, including two touchdowns, after missing on about half a dozen throws in the first half.
The intangible factor in the game is the lingering drama between the two teams, which is heightened today as the Steelers return to Paul Brown Stadium for the first time since Ryan Shazier was severely injured back in December. It’s impossible to determine beforehand how that will affect the contest.