The Pittsburgh Steelers were certainly not interested in taking it easy on rookie QB Joe Burrow in his first game against his new AFC North rival. The Steelers put the pressure on the 2020 Heisman Award winner early and often, sacking him four times and hitting him 9 times in Sunday’s tilt. DPOY candidate T.J Watt got to Burrow twice on the evening while the rest of his defense cleaned up the rest. To his credit, Burrow did not turn the ball over against the ball-hawking Pittsburgh secondary, but the Steelers still found ways to flip the field with two forced fumbles. The Bengals’ QB will also have a 2nd quarter touchdown to WR Tee Higgins to hang his hat on, but the rest was a nightmare for Cincinnati.
The story of the evening was certainly third down, as Cincinnati failed to convert a single time on 13 attempts. The Steelers did plenty on the other side as the ball as they converted 6 times on 16 attempts. Nothing went well for Burrow against the Steelers defense, perhaps highlighted by the fact that the 2nd longest play on the day for Cincinnati was a 4th quarter fake punt where the Bengals’ upback Shawn Williams took a direct snap off the left edge for a 39-yard gain. As for the Steelers, CB Joe Haden had a rock-solid outing as he was glued to receivers all day. His 3 pass breakups were the most he has had in a single game all season. In addition, S Terrell Edmunds had a strong day as well, leading his team with 8 tackles. When the entire city of Pittsburgh was looking for a refreshing performance after struggling last week, the Steelers sure delivered.
For the offense, it was business as usual as QB Ben Roethlisberger continued to come through at a high level. Roethlisberger tossed 4 touchdowns and distributed the ball evenly amongst his pass catchers. Rookie WR Chase Claypool had another strong day, catching 2 touchdowns and accumulating 56 yards. 2nd-year wideout Diontae Johnson led the team in receiving yards as he reeled in 6 catches for 116 yards and a score. And not to be outdone, WR Juju Smith-Schuster caught 9 passes for 77 yards, also finding pay dirt. While the air attack was firing on all cylinders, it was the 2nd consecutive week where the Steelers struggled to find success on the ground. RB James Conner only averaged 2.8 yards per carry as he was restricted to only 35 rush yards. Surely OC Randy Fichtner will look to buck this trend in the coming weeks, but he has to be pleased with Roethlisberger and his plethora of young receivers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be thrilled to travel to Jacksonville next week still unbeaten, but they must be sharp in order to leave with a victory. The Jaguars are coming off of a road trip to Green Bay in which they gave the Packers all they can handle and then some. Pittsburgh will need to stay disciplined to not look forward to the 5-star matchup on Thanksgiving Day as Jacksonville is evolving into a formidable opponent. As for Cincinnati, they will look to get back into the win column as they travel to D.C next week to take on the Football Team.