The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to open up their 2022 regular season against their divisional rivals. Last season, the Super Bowl-bound Cincinnati Bengals dominated Mike Tomlin’s squad, sweeping the regular season pair of matchups. As far as Sunday’s meeting goes, securing the football and controlling the game clock are going to be pivotal, according to Tomlin on The Mike Tomlin Show earlier today.
In both instances last season, the Bengals found ways to exploit several weaknesses. In the November clash, Joe Mixon obliterated Pittsburgh’s run defense while Joe Burrow picked them apart for three passing touchdowns in the prior game in September. During those two games, then-Steelers starting signal caller Ben Roethlisberger threw for a total of four interceptions as well. In regard to the turnovers, Tomlin spoke of how crucial keeping the turnover battle will be if the Steelers are to come out victorious.
“We can’t turn the ball over,” Tomlin said. “Possession of the ball is significant regardless of circumstance. Particularly when you’re going into an environment like we’re going into and particularly given the recent history or the nature of this matchup last year, we turned the ball over in bunches in both games. And that’s why the games weren’t close.”
If you look at the November game, the Bengals controlled the game throughout. The total time of possession was 35:20 for Cincinnati. A big reason was the steady dose of Mixon that the Bengals shoved down Pittsburgh’s throats. By the game’s conclusion, the Steelers’ defense had surrendered 165 yards on the ground to him. Giving up three turnovers to the Bengals ended up being Tomlin’s undoing. Prior to that, the Steelers coughed up a pair of turnovers in September. Overall, it was sloppy football. Tomlin knows full well this can’t be repeated as they start their season on the road.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball. If we take care of the ball, it’ll give us an opportunity for a game to develop.”
As far as taking care of the ball, Najee Harris didn’t have a fumble last season, so keeping that streak going here in Week 1 will be key. Mitchell Trubisky, for his part, has 27 career fumbles, six of them in his last year as a starter with the Chicago Bears in 2020. With a shaky offensive line to start the season, the Steelers’ coach is hoping they too will do their part in keeping the flow going. If the offense can’t get it going out of the gate, it will be a long day.