While most are expecting another brutally physical game, the true identity of these two teams is far from certain. To get a better grasp on the Bengals, I sat down with Cincy Jungle, SB Nation’s Bengals website, to talk about things from the other side of the fence.
Check out the Q&A we had below:
The Cincinnati Bengals are playing some great football this year. What has been the biggest difference(s) between 2017 and 2018 which has led to success?
I think the most noticeable difference is the command Bill Lazor has over this offense. He took over as the official offensive coordinator this offseason, and he created a brand new offense, which is something this team hasn’t done since Jay Gruden joined the team. Lazor has been very imaginative, and he hasn’t been afraid to move players around. A.J. Green has lined up in the slot more than ever this season, and it has payed off with huge plays.
Also John Ross and Tyler Boyd contributing at receiver is huge as well. Neither did much last season, but Ross’ speed is something teams just have to respect, and that opens things up for Boyd who has become Andy Dalton’s favorite safety blanket to target. Also of course Joe Mixon being the feature back from the get go is huge. Too often last season the Bengals would go to Jeremy Hill for a drive while Mixon was rolling, and it would throw off the entire rhythm of the offense.
The final thing is Cordy Glenn at left tackle, and the team not having Russell Bodine at center. Glenn hasn’t been perfect at left tackle, but he has been a very noticeable upgrade over Cedric Ogbuehi who has yet to even be activated for a game. Also Bodine not getting bull rushed back into the pocket has allowed Dalton to actually be able to step up in the pocket to give his receivers more time.
The Bengals offense seems to be one of the more potent in the league, but every unit has their potential pit falls. What are the weaknesses of this Bengals offense?
While the offensive line is improved from last year, the right side is still pretty bad. Right guard Alex Redmond and right tackle Bobby Hart just can’t seem to put a game where they are consistently good together. Hart has had plays where he just doesn’t end up blocking anyone, which allows pass rushers a free look at Dalton, and Redmond has had issues being escorted to Dalton’s lap by interior pass rushers too often. Although, Redmond has shown the most promise of the two, that isn’t saying much.
If you were an offensive coordinator putting together a game plan for the Bengals’ defense, how would you attack them?
Two areas I’d attack are the linebackers in coverage and Dre Kirkpatrick. I wouldn’t even look towards William Jackson unless he is playing off coverage.
The linebackers covering has been an issue for awhile now. This year hasn’t changed as it seems like they are just sitting out there waiting for someone to catch a pass. If I had a dollar for every time an offense ran colliding drag routes on third down I would probably be able to buy the Bengals. Kirkpatrick gets picked on more than any high paid corner I can remember. He has good plays, but he is easily beaten on double moves or by quicker receivers. It is very easy to get in front of him if he is playing off coverage.
The one thing you really need to make sure that you do is hit on quicker passes if Cincinnati decides to blitz (which seems rarer than it should be). If they bring one extra blitzer it usually results in a quick pressure on the quarterback. even when they don’t blitz the combination of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap makes it hard for any quarterback to feel safe sitting back their for long.
Name one player on each side of the ball Steelers fans might want to keep an eye on this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Jessie Bates is the best safety in the NFL that no one seems to be talking about. He doesn’t light up the stat sheet, even though he has two picks on the season, but he plays the center field so well for the Bengals. Cincinnati hasn’t given up a ton of big plays deep, and he is pretty much the reason for that. Ben Roethlisber may have to worry about a new Reggie Nelson roaming the secondary.
Boyd is probably the guy that Pittsburgh fans would least expect to be the key for the offense. He is flying under the radar of Mixon and Green, but when Boyd is going that means the Bengals are converting third downs and getting into scoring distance. He struggled last week to get the ball from Dalton, and the Bengals’ offense only scored 10 points. He is someone Cincinnati needs to get going.
What is your prediction of the game, and how do you see it playing out?
I’m always afraid of divisional games. You never know quite how they will turn out. I do think this game ends up being very close, but I also think it ends up being a pretty high scoring affair. It could ultimately come down to which team makes the deciding turnover late. That is something the Bengals have done all year long, and I think they do it again as Roethlisberger tries to attack Kirkpatrick one too many times, and Bates gets the game sealing interception.
Bengals 34 Steelers 31