There is a common theme through most of the AFC North, short of the Cleveland Browns, and that is a significant turnover on the offensive line. While that’s more prominent in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the Cincinnati Bengals have done some tinkering, internally and externally, and the results of their first two games have been somewhat promising, through some tough challenges.
Third-year head coach Zac Taylor is appreciative of that, and of the obstacle that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ front will present his offensive line, even if it is coming in short-handed, with Stephon Tuitt, Alex Highsmith, and Tyson Alualu sidelined.
“That’s just where you’ve got to start, with the ones that you’re gonna face six times, and we face really good fronts”, Taylor said of structuring his offensive line based on the AFC North opponents that they have to face during the season.
“Really, our draw in the first three games have been against really good fronts. That’s been a challenge for us. It’s good. It’s gonna break our guys in the right way. We’re gonna face some really good ones upfront and get us battle-tested”.
The Bengals faced the Minnesota Vikings in week one, and came away with an overtime win. This past week, they came up short against the Chicago Bears, but were at least able to make a late push and close out with a one-score loss.
“It’s a long season. Our guys are gonna have to endure that”, Taylor said of the challenges of his offensive line holding up against a series of tough defensive fronts like Pittsburgh’s. “There’s a lot of things that we can correct, that we know we can be better at, and we’re excited to get another opportunity to do that on Sunday”.
While the Steelers will have multiple key players down along the front seven, All-Pro Cameron Heyward will still be there, as well Melvin Ingram, and there is a fair chance that T.J. Watt, yet another All-Pro, will be out there as well. He has three sacks, including two strip sacks, through his first six quarters of play this year.
Now, Cincinnati’s line is still a work in progress. They have allowed Burrow to be sacked 10 times through the first two games, which is not good at all. That’s putting him on pace to be sacked 85 times in 2021, which he may not survive.
They obviously need to reverse that pace. And we obviously hope that it doesn’t occur until at least a week from now, as we don’t want it letting up while they’re facing the Steelers, whether they are shorthanded along the front line or not.