In the first two installments of the Steelers key of the week, we looked at a pair of receiving targets that could take games over by themselves. This week we look at the engine itself and how roughing up Joe Burrow (again) is how the Steelers can claim victory at Heinz Field. The first time the Pittsburgh Steelers battled against the Burrow led-Bengals they punished him with four sacks and a list of quarterback hits. Burrow was limited to just 21/40, 213 yards, and a touchdown in that matchup, and replicating another day like that one is exactly what the Steelers need to claim victory on Sunday.
In 2020 the Steelers defense made Joe Burrow play his worst game, and possibly the worst game of his entire football career. They did it by hitting him over and over again and he genuinely looked scared on the field of play. The Steelers will rely on its front seven to rattle Burrow’s cage yet again, and on paper the Steelers should be able to do it even better than they did in 2020. Getting T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith healthy from their groin injuries is of the utmost importance for this game. Being without either player will drastically limit the teams ability to live in the Bengals backfield.
Bengals’ tackles Riley Reiff and Jonah Williams have played really well so far in 2021 protecting Joe Burrow and his surgically repaired knee. So sending just four men at the Bengals quarterback, like they did against the Bills, shouldn't be the game plan again. I would expect coach Keith Butler to dial up the blitz’s and stunts along the defensive front to confuse and keep the Bengals offensive line on their toes. The Bengals offensive line is deceptively good because of how bad they were a year ago. But Williams came back healthy, they signed Reiff, and they drafted Jackson Carman and made him a guard. Quickly this unit got better over night and teams have to be ready for it.
Hitting Joe Burrow —like how teams have hit Ben Roethlisberger— is the big stat to watch here. If they can get to him 10+ times I’m certain they can transition that into creating turnovers. Look for the Steelers front seven to come up big this week, but if they look like how they did when T.J. Watt exited the Raiders game it could be a long afternoon for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But what do you think? Can the Steelers make Joe Burrow’s second trip to Pittsburgh as rough as his first one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.