As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in this 2020 Week 10 contest between the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. Pittsburgh’s Passing Game Gets Vertical
As I wrote about in my Saturday X Factor. Lack of a Bengals’ pass rush (11 team sacks, only one player with more than one) and injuries in the secondary is making this team vulnerable to the deep ball. It’s an area of offense where the Steelers’ have struggled this season but if there’s a week to turn things around, this is the one. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t shy about airing things out and in a week where he had limited time to practice and prepare, sometimes chucking it deep and letting your guy make a play is the best plan. Admittedly, windy and rainy weather on the docket today could make things a little more difficult.
2. Running Backs Rack Up YAC
Steelers have struggled in the trenches the past three weeks, one reason why the run game has failed. The line has to be more physical against a weak Bengals’ front but the bigger backs – James Conner and Benny Snell – have to pick it up too. Look for plenty of Jerald Hawkins as the 6th OL, especially with Vance McDonald out. The Bengals struggle to tackle and they allow a lot of yards after contact. Pittsburgh should get back on track via the run.
3. Defense Buries Burrow
Simple keys this week against a better-than-you-think Bengals team but still, one the Steelers should take care of. Only Carson Wentz has been sacked more times than Joe Burrow’s 28. Pittsburgh’s pass rush brought Wentz down five times earlier this year. Want to see similar numbers later today. Bengals’ o-line is an absolute mess. Keith Butler needs to make sure TJ Watt and Bud Dupree are going forward. Dropping too much into coverage the last month.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Tyler Boyd’s Slot Attack Is Too Much
Boyd is one guy who really worries me. He always does well against the Steelers and has been Burrow’s favorite target this season. With good reason. He’s an athletic receiver, a good and smart route runner, and their scheme is built around getting him open in the slot. You can be sure the team will try to bracket him on possession downs but Boyd is as much a threat there as any wideout in football. Since 2017, no one has more than Boyd’s 62 third/fourth down conversions.
2. Bengals’ Familiar Names Make Familiar Plays
That’s guys like Boyd. Like DE Carl Lawson, their one true pass rush threat who will dance with Alejandro Villanueva later today. CB William Jackson, who would be a Steeler had the Bengals not snatched him up one pick earlier. And RB Gio Bernard, starting again in place of Joe Mixon, and a very good pass game threat. Don’t want those guys being the story of the game.
3. The Offense Isn’t Balanced Enough
I don’t mean that in a bland run/pass ratio either, though that’s part of it. For the past two weeks, the only thing that’s consistently worked on offense is 01 personnel in the second half. Going tempo, four receiver sets, and making it up as the team went along. That can only work for so long. Have to be better out of 11 personnel, have to do a better job with the run game, staying on schedule, and not falling behind early.
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