Injury-riddled Steelers bracing for Burrow, Bengals
CINCINNATI (1-1) at PITTSBURGH (1-1)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS
OPENING LINE: Steelers by 3, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREADS: Cincinnati 2-0, Pittsburgh 1-1.
SERIES RECORD: Steelers lead 67-36.
LAST MEETING: Bengals beat Steelers 27-17 on Dec. 21, 2020 in Cincinnati.
LAST WEEK: Bengals lost to Bears 20-17; Steelers lost to Raiders 26-17.
BENGALS OFFENSE: OVERALL (24), RUSH (18), PASS (28), SCORING (20).
BENGALS DEFENSE: OVERALL (6), RUSH (11), PASS (9), SCORING (10T).
STEELERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (28), RUSH (32), PASS (18), SCORING (24T).
STEELERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (22), RUSH (10), PASS (29), SCORING (9).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Bengals minus-2; Steelers even.
BENGALS PLAYER to WATCH: DT D.J. Reader. Reader, a massive 6’3″ and 347- pound, is now healthy. Cincinnati’s run defense is solid as a consequence. He was able to pick up his first sack since 2019 last Week against Chicago. His presence in the middle could make Steelers’ running game difficult for rookie RB Najee Harries.
STEELERS PLAYER to WATCH: WR Chase Claypool. The second-year wideout has become one of the best deep threats in the league and hauled in a 52-yard heave from QB Ben Roethlisberger last week. Perhaps the best way for Pittsburgh to jump-start the league’s 32nd-ranked running game is by stretching the defense to create space for Harris to work.
KEYMATCHUP: Pittsburgh’s weak offensive line faces Cincinnati’s defense. Steelers rank last in NFL for rushing in two weeks, and they face a Bengals defense that allows just 3.4 yards per run. With Roethlisberger banged-up, Pittsburgh desperately needs to get something going on the ground to take some pressure off the 39-year-old quarterback.
KEY INDJURIES: WR Tee Higgins, G Xavier Su’a-Filo, and CB Trae Warrens (hamstring), all missed practice this week. DL Larry Ogunjobi is suffering from a groin injury. … Pittsburgh has a long injury list that includes Roethlisberger, LBs T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith (groin), Devin Bush (groin), and CB Joe Haden and WR Diontae John (knee). After breaking his right ankle, DT Tyson Alualu was placed on injured reserve.
SERIES NOTES: Pittsburgh has dominated the Bengals for the better part of the last three decades and has won 14 of the last 16 meetings overall. Cincinnati’s upset home win last December, however, hinted at the cracks emerging in what became Pittsburgh’s 1-5 slide to end the season following an 11-0 start. … The Steelers have won five consecutive games against the Bengals at Heinz Field. … Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is still looking for his first win against an AFC North opponent (0-4). … Roethlisberger is 26-7 against Cincinnati.
STATS AND STUFF: Burrow struggled in his lone start against the Steelers last season, completing 21 of 40 for 213 yards and a touchdown while getting sacked four times. After throwing interceptions in three consecutive snaps last week in Chicago, the 2020 top pick will attempt to bounce back. In six games against Pittsburgh, Joe Mixon, Cincinnati’s RB, is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. … The Bengals are 9-7 when Mixon has at least 20 carries. … Cincinnati’s P Kevin Huber will play his 193rd match, surpassing Ken Anderson to move into third place on the team’s games played list. Roethlisberger will need two TD passes in order to be the eighth player in NFL history that has reached 400. … The Steelers want to avoid dropping their home games for the third time in 2000 HTML3_. Through two games, Harris averages just 3.2 yards per carries. In four years as a Crimson Tide star, Harris averaged less than 3.2 yards per carry. … The Steelers have had five sacks in their two games, but they struggled to create pressure after Watt’s exit in the second quarter. Watt watched from the sidelines in sweatpants as Derek Carr, Las Vegas’ QB, threw for 263 yardage and two touchdowns in halftime. The Pittsburgh defense will be put to the test. Alualu (knee), Stephon Tuitt(knee), and Chris Wormley (Isaiah Buggs) are expected to see more action against an offensive line that may heavily rely on RB Mixon.
FANTASY TIP: Bengals rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase is averaging 22.1 yards per reception and has scored a touchdown in each of his first two games. He will face a Pittsburgh secondary that may be shorthanded again. Chase could be a star if the Steelers don’t exert pressure on Burrow.
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