The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering uncharted territory, by many definitions of the saying. For starters, the team will not have Ben Roethlisberger starting the season at quarterback for the first time since 2005. The team will also have a new defensive coordinator in Teryl Austin, a new offensive line coach in Pat Meyer, and a new general manager in Omar Khan. As such, it is difficult to tell key aspects of the game to look for in this game, especially given the factor of the unknown in week one.
However, past trends and stats do tell a whole lot on what to look for, as this article will explore for the team’s week one match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals.
1. 88. The Bengals have beaten the Steelers in the last three outings. The common denominator? The Bengals have out-rushed them in all three games by an average of 88 yards (152-86, 96-45, and 198-51). If the Steelers want a chance at opening the season with a victory, it is more than likely that they will have to out-rush the Bengals. With a far healthier front seven than the one they put out on the field in 2021, as well as a healthier offensive line, the expectation should be that the Steelers do so on Sunday, or at least be closer to zero than 88.
2. 42. The one statistic that is thrown around most in praise of Steelers new quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is his winning percentage, which is top four in the NFL since 2018 for quarterbacks with over 1000 pass attempts. What is one of the keys to this? Pass attempts. When attempting over 42 passes, Trubisky is 0-8 (.000) in his career. Meanwhile, he is 30-14 (.681) in games where he attempts less than 42 passes.
3. 11. When blitzed over 11 times in the regular season, Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow is 2-5-1, including a 2020 36-10 loss to the Steelers. While this may not be as effective with a revamped Bengals offensive line, it’s no doubt that T.J. Watt and the Steelers defense must not make life easy for Burrow in the pocket.
4. 7.5. It is virtually impossible to find a stat where Joe Burrow is below average in the NFL. However, according to PFF’s QB annual, one such stat is his interception percentage in throws over 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. In said throws, Burrow throws an interception on 7.5% of his deep balls compared to the league average of 6%. He does not miss often, but when he does, the Steelers defensive backfield must be ready.
5. 5-4-1. Under Head Coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have a 5-4-1 record in week one games on the road. This is also their 7th consecutive road season opener, and their first time opening the season in Cincinnati under Tomlin.