The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the best teams in the league so far this season in generating pressure. The Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line has been among the worst in preventing it from happening. According to Pro Football Focus, right tackle Bobby Hart alone is responsible for giving up three sacks. Guard Alex Redmond has stunningly surrendered 21 pressures already, and left tackle Cordy Glenn 19.
If the Steelers are to make up ground in the AFC North in this next game, then the pressure is on them to put the pressure on the Bengals’ offensive line and to force Andy Dalton into making some bad decisions and throws.
Despite the pressure that he has faced so far this year, Dalton has been playing relatively well overall, completing nearly 66 percent of his passes at 7.7 yards per attempt. He has thrown for 1445 yards and 12 touchdowns, though he has seven interceptions, some of which were not his responsibility.
The eighth-year quarterback has leaned hard on A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd this season, which is not surprising given the injuries to Tyler Eifert (season-ending), Joe Mixon, and John Ross. He hasn’t had a lot of other players to throw to.
If the Steelers can manage to take one of those two wide receivers out of the game—say, choosing to have Joe Haden shadowing Green—it would really pressure Dalton to make tougher choices, which is conducive to making bad decisions. When Boyd is in the slot against Mike Hilton, it will be even tougher.
But it’s imperative for Pittsburgh’s pass rush to find the success that they had to start the season and in the last game against the Falcons. T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward in particular had strong games going up against the Falcons’ line.
They should on paper be able to have a similar amount of success, especially with Watt going up against Hart, who is only starting because the team has no trust in Jake Fisher or Cedrick Ogbuehi, who were by now supposed to be their bookmark starting tackles after being the team’s top two picks in the draft several years ago.
Bud Dupree has been generating pressure at a relatively efficient rate as well, and Glenn at left tackle has been willing to oblige in allowing pressure. While many of his better rushes have come on stunts that send him inside, he has had success doing that as well in Cincinnati.
No matter how they do it, though, they have to get home in this game. It’s still early in the year, but so is the division schedule. They can’t fall two and a half games behind the Bengals, giving Cincinnati a game in hand. For a game on the first half of the schedule, this is an awfully big one. The pressure’s on to put the pressure on.