The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their 2022 regular season Week 11 game with a home game at Acrisure Stadium vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. A tough task for the Steelers who, at 3-6, are still trying to right the ship.
With this being such a big game, not like every game isn’t a big game, I was able to ask Anthony Consenza of Cincy Jungle, SB Nation’s Bengals website, five questions leading up to the game.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
Ja’Marr Chase has been out of the lineup for several weeks now. How has this impacted the Bengals’ offensive approach? Have there been any positives to come out of the situation?
Well, obviously, replacing what Chase does isn’t easy. His absence was painfully obvious in the Halloween beatdown by the Browns when the Cincinnati offense couldn’t do much of anything.
Still, I believe that that performance was due to a myriad of factors aside from Chase’s absence alone. Cincinnati has not matched up well against the Browns in the Joe Burrow era (he’s never beaten them), Cleveland always seems to play the Bengals in a “back-against-the-wall” game, but I also believe the Bengals didn’t have enough time to properly alter their game plan in the lead-up to that game. If you remember, Chase’s injury and subsequent absence was announced late that week, causing the team to scramble to pick up the pieces.
I like the final part of your question about finding positives because that’s what the Bengals achieved in the blowout win over the Panthers. They were able to properly prepare and came up with a dominant run game performance with Joe Mixon setting franchise-record marks versus Carolina. Much like they did after a few rough games to start the year (namely in the opener against the Steelers), the Bengals’ offense adjusted to play to other strengths without “Uno” in the lineup.
The Steelers provide a tough matchup in run defense, so Cincinnati will likely utilize short, quick-hitting passes to Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Hayden Hurst to gain an early advantage. Also look for misdirection and gadget plays to backup wideouts Trent Taylor and others. But, the forcing of the offense to find alternative ways to be successful outside of Chase could be a long-term blessing down the stretch.
The Bengals are coming off their bye week. How have they done coming out of the week off in years past? Do the fans trust the team will be ready to go, or will it take them some time to get warmed up on the road?
I’m not sure if you know, but Marvin Lewis’ teams were notoriously awful coming out of a bye (5-10-1). It was one of his few downfalls (along with a deplorable record against the Steelers) that marred his otherwise respectable Bengals coaching tenure.
It hasn’t been all that much better under Zac Taylor, though. He’s 1-2 out of a bye, with their lone victory coming last season against the Raiders. In 2020, while Joe Burrow was still healthy, Cincinnati got their heads handed to them by the Steelers 36-10 in Pittsburgh.
I think most folks have faith the Bengals will be better prepared than in Taylor’s first two seasons, given their success last year and the team being built much more soundly than in 2019-2020 and this once-green coaching staff having much more solid footing in their fourth season together. Still, the Bengals after a bye, historically-speaking, are 9-23-1. That speaks volumes.
Outside of Chase, what are some other injuries fans are concerned about heading into this AFC North grudge match which could impact the outcome of the game?
Starting cornerback and vastly underrated cornerback, Chidobe Awuzie, is out for the year with a knee injury he suffered in that absolutely miserable Browns game. Additionally, backup interior defensive lineman, Josh Tupou, is also out this week.
First-round swingman defensive back, Dax Hill, looks to be out this week with a shoulder injury, adding to the pile of injuries in the secondary. Former Steeler Mike Hilton had surgery on his finger a couple of weeks ago, but he’s been practicing and should be a go.
But, much like the Steelers, Cincinnati is actually getting healthier, for the most part. Starting nose tackle D.J. Reader should be back this Sunday after being on I.R., while guys like Hilton and Tre Flowers are mending. Safety/kick returner Brandon Wilson is back for the first time in about a year and a half, so we may see him this Sunday.
One Bengals player who had to be especially ecstatic about the bye is left tackle Jonah Williams. He’s had a bit of a rough year, but some of those struggles have to be attributed to a dislocated knee cap and sprained ligament suffered in the Sunday night loss to the Ravens a month ago. Additional rest had to have helped him this week.
The Steelers harassed Joe Burrow early and often in Week 1, is that still the same recipe for success to slow down the Cincinnati offense? Or have they fixed that part of their game? On top of that, what are the weaknesses in the Bengals’ defense?
It was and is the key to success against the Bengals. Burrow has shown a penchant to come back from a number of different circumstances and deficits, so the best way to disallow him to work his magic are those drive-derailing plays for loss.
However, Cincinnati’s line has grown into a respectable one over the past month or so. The sack numbers are high, but those are a bit misleading because of Burrow’s backyard football style netting those occasional negative plays and not so much extremely poor offensive line performances. Still, they are far from a perfect unit and the powerhouses the Steelers employ up front will undoubtedly provide problems.
I do also think Cincinnati’s run game clicking in their last game is an interesting aspect to watch. Usually, with a healthy Chase, stopping the run wouldn’t necessarily stifle the Bengals’ offense. But, take away two major weapons (one by just being unavailable), and that could provide a tough mountain to climb.
Cincinnati’s defense has been pretty sound this year. They aren’t that flashy, in terms of a flurry of turnovers or quarterback sacks, but they are technically sound and disallow big plays. Awuzie being out definitely hurts, as does their lack of finding a reliable, rotational pass-rusher off the edge to spell Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Steelers as 4-point underdogs at home in Week 11. This is a familiar spot for the Steelers this season, but what are your general thoughts on this game and how it plays out in Pittsburgh Sunday?
Part of me thinks this is an accurate line because the Steelers are transitioning with a rookie quarterback, who just lost a receiver towards the top of the depth chart in Chase Claypool.
Still, I think, whether Steelers fans want to admit it or not, there is a lot of emotion in this rivalry. It got renewed with Cincinnati’s sweep of Pittsburgh last year and Burrow’s ascension to one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Week 1 looked like it would be a blowout win for the Bengals, but Pittsburgh’s emotional momentum carried them that week.
But, the uber-rare loss of a long snapper, having a quarterback returning from an appendectomy and an offensive line with four new starters who didn’t play together in the summer were also critical factors to that wacky game. Even without Chase, I think the Bengals come out inspired after being angry from that loss and Burrow rarely loses to familiar foes in back-to-back games, save for the Browns, of course.
I’ll still take the Steelers and the points, but I do think the Bengals pull out an ugly one. I wouldn’t be surprised if the line is a push, too—it’s just a tough game to bet on this week, in terms of spreads, etc..
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 11 game vs. the Bengals this Sunday in Pittsburgh.