Steelers Pregame Focus: Pass rush isn't a luxury, it's a necessity against Cincinnati

Andy Lyons

The Bengals have powerful playmakers on offense, and a quarterback unafraid to get the ball down field. The only way the Steelers are going to keep pace is by putting that quarterback on the ground, and often.

To be blunt, the Steelers defense is not going to have much success at Cincinnati in Week 7 if the ball leaves the right hand of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in a throwing motion.

That's the crux of this game. Dalton is not the more careful quarterback in the game, nor is he the most accurate, but he's the most dangerous to a defense that does not make plays in the secondary. In fact, he's the worst kind they could face.

Dalton does not care if he risks turnovers on the throws he makes. And he makes enough big plays to justify that mentality.

Cincinnati is a big play offense. They have arguably the game's best receiver. And Dalton knows it.

The only way the Steelers are going to slow this team down is by putting Dalton on his back. Often.

This is the kind of make-or-break game in which production is needed from the jewels of the 3-4 defense. The big money outside linebackers, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, need to take the heat off the secondary, cornerback Ike Taylor in particular.

There are only so many ways to disguise coverage. There are only a few things cornerbacks can do to stop huge and athletic receivers outside the numbers. Clearly, the Steelers secondary doesn't know what those things are; they're the only team in the NFL to not have yet logged an interception outside the numbers on the field (the space between the numerals on the yard lines and the sideline).

While it would seem likely, against a big play offense, the Steelers will play with two deep safeties more often than they did against Tennessee, one of the universal truths of the game of football is pressure makes coverage far easier than coverage makes pressure.

Cincinnati doesn't protect the passer all that well, and Dalton plays the game on the edge with the kind of do-or-die style that made Brett Favre successful, popular and interception-prone.

Pressure is a necessity in this game. The Bengals as a team and Dalton as a passer are not good enough to complete eight passes a drive and march up and down the field. They're going to push the ball deep, and if the Steelers cannot get pressure (or even a time or two when they do) those big plays will be made.


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