After dealing with the likes of Buffalo’s Josh Allen and Las Vegas’s Derek Carr through two weeks of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will face another talented young signal caller in Week 3 in Cincinnati Bengals’ budding star Joe Burrow.
Much like the Bills and Raiders though, the Bengals bring a top-flight offensive attack to the table, thanks to the compliment of weapons Burrow has at his disposal, along with a rebuilt offensive line that aims at protecting the second-year pro, who was lost for the year as a rookie in 2020 after tearing his ACL and MCL against the Washington Football Team.
Now, with no T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith, along with the likes of Tyson Alualu, Stephon Tuitt and Carlos Davis, the Steelers appear rather shorthanded in the front seven and face a challenging task of slowing down a high-powered Bengals’ attack in Week 3, according to head coach Mike Tomlin, who spoke with Bob Pompeani in his weekly 84 Lumber Presents the Mike Tomlin Show.
“You know, he’s [Burrow] a really talented player. He needs no endorsement for me,” Tomlin said to Pompeani. “He’s got the hardware to prove it first pick in the draft, Heisman Trophy. And he really, prior to his injury in 2020, was being what they expected him to be. He’s a quality player, man. He can make all the throws, he’s got the arm talent, he’s got the intellect. His mobility is above average. Obviously he’s coming back from injury. That’s changed some of the things that they do in terms of this mobility in the short term, but his mobility is something to be contended with as well, under normal circumstances. He just really got a very complete skillset. You couple that with a nice set of receivers, somewhat new, some have been there. Tyler Boyd has been a mainstay for those guys for a number of years, particularly in the slot. He’s one of the best of the business. Tee Higgins is a big guy who makes big-guy-type plays. Chase is the guy that played college ball with Joe Burrow, who’s a rookie this year and has already provided big-time splash to them, getting behind people on a weekly basis.
“And so, man, he’s got a nice group to throw to you couple that with Joe Mixon, who I think is the second leading rusher in the NFL right now,” Tomlin added. “They’re going to be something to deal with. It doesn’t escape us that their new offensive line coach Frank [Pollack] was their former offensive line coach in 2018. I think Joe Mixon led the league in rushing. And so, he’s back. And so, we’re weighing that as well. We realize a lot of ball is going to go through Joe Mixon, but we still have to contend with Joe burrow and those eligible. So it’s a challenging task, no doubt.”
Though the Pollack returns to coach the offensive line in Cincinnati, the Bengals continue to give up free rushers to Burrow, leading to a league-high 10 sacks and countless other quarterback hits through two weeks. While the Steelers may be a bit depleted in the front seven, the Bengals will be starting a rookie at right guard, which should give the Steelers some sort of advantage in that matchup.
As Tomlin said, Sunday’s matchup will be without a doubt challenging, but the Steelers’ defense should be able to get after Burrow throughout the day and cover in the back half with the return of Joe Haden. The onus will be on stopping the run, turning the Bengals into a one-dimensional offense. If not, it could be a long day in Pittsburgh for the black and gold.