The time has come for the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers to get their first taste of AFC North competition. As the team prepares to play the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field, there is a long list of players for the black and gold who could be considered "impact" players.
What is an impact player? Someone who's performance could have an immediate correlation to the outcome of the game. There were quite a few to choose from, so I grouped a couple together. So, it isn't technically 5 players, but I figured you wouldn't mind the added information.
5 impact players to watch vs. the Bengals in Week 2:
Sure, it would be easy to put Ben Roethlisberger on the list, but he is always an impact player. Along those lines, Williams will be extremely important in this Week 2 divisional grudge match against Cincinnati. Yes, his ability to run the football will be vital to the team's success, but his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as a safety valve can't be overstated. Williams has shown he has the occasional drop, and it could be the difference between a first down and the end of a crucial drive. Want another way Williams could be an impact player? Blitz pickup. Williams is very sound in this category, and will need to continue his play in pass protection to give Roethlisberger that last second to deliver a pas downfield.
Shazier is as dynamic as they come, and is probably the closest thing fans will see to Troy Polamalu in a long time; however, the Steelers need their former first round draft pick to stay on the football field. Shazier had another one of his dynamic games where he recorded an interception, two passes defended and 6 tackles, and also left with a knee injury. Shazier is listed as questionable, but the Steelers will need his speed and athleticism wreaking havoc on the defensive side of the football against Andy Dalton and company.
Ross Cockrell / William Gay
Stop A.J. Green. You could put that on the stalls of Cockrell and Gay all week leading up to the game, and they would know every day just how daunting a task they are facing in Week 2. Nonetheless, that is what makes them impact players. If Gay and Cockrell can combine to just slow down Green, because stopping him is nearly impossible, it will go a long way to slowing down the Bengals, which could lead to a win for the home team.
Cameron Heyward / Stephon Tuitt
Stop A.J. Green. Why would Heyward and Tuitt have this on their stalls this week? Because if they can put pressure on Andy Dalton, Green becomes a non-factor. Heyward and Tuitt were shut out, in terms of sacks, in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins, and they weren't happy about it. It is time for them to break through, and you couldn't hand-pick a better opponent to break through against. Wreak havoc on the offense...mission accepted.
In his three games against Cincinnati in 2015, Brown accumulated 47, 87, and 119 yards receiving, in order. In those three games he only tallied one touchdown. The Steelers don't have Martavis Bryant, and might not have Markus Wheaton either, so they will need the league's best receiver to be just that -- the best. Roethlisberger will be looking for Brown, but being patient, and not force feeding, with Brown could result in opportunities late in the game.