The Pittsburgh Steelers head home this Sunday to take on their AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers lead the regular season series 58-35, and have won both postseason matchups. They are coming off a huge win over the Kansas City Chiefs, while the Bengals are coming off their bye week. The Steelers are looking to create some separation in the division, but it won’t be as an easy task. The Bengals offense has come to life under new coordinator Bill Lazor, averaging 25 points per game. They averaged a paltry 11 points per game under previous coordinator Ken Zampese. Week seven Pittsburgh Steelers keys to victory looks at how they need to attack the Bengals to get the win.
Week Seven Pittsburgh Steelers Keys To Victory
The week seven Pittsburgh Steelers offense looks to have found its identity at last. While the Steelers are quick strike capable, Le’Veon Bell is the key to their success. As Bell goes, so goes the offense. He’s been on a roll the last three weeks, rushing for 370 yards on 82 carries. Bell had seven carries of 10 yards or more against the Chiefs, allowing the Steelers to control the clock. A well rested defense appreciated Bell’s dominance by shutting down an explosive Chiefs Offense.
The Steelers defense, led by Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier, and Artie Burns, is growing into their potential. Keith Butler‘s unit, which ranks in the top five for points allowed, yards allowed, and sacks, expects to dominate Sunday. The Bengals are ready for a fight. On paper, the Steelers should run away with this one, but that’s the thing with divisional games, records mean nothing. Especially with the bad blood that has escalated this rivalry in recent years.
Week Seven Pittsburgh Steelers Key to Victory Number One: Maintain Composure
In a rivalry as hostile as this one has recently been, maintaining composure is critical to winning these games. There’s no better example of this than the Steelers-Bengals 2015 wild card game. The Bengals had the game wrapped up until simultaneous meltdowns from Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones cost them the game. A series of 15 yard penalties by Burfict and Jones put the Steelers in position to kick the game winning field goal.
With 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Steelers were at their own 42 yard line trailing 16-15. Ben Roethlisberger threw an incomplete pass to Antonio Brown. Burfict was flagged for unnecessary roughness over an illegal blow to Brown’s head. The 15 yard penalty gave the Steelers a first down at the Bengals 32 yard line. During the ensuing commotion, Jones received a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, setting the Steelers up at the Bengal 17. Moments later, Chris Boswell kicked the game winning field goal.
The Steelers must keep their emotions in check and focus on playing the game. They need to capitalize on the momentum gained last Sunday, not give it back through retaliatory penalties. The Steelers want to be champions and must conduct themselves as such, avoiding the distractions that haveve plagued Burfict and Jones.
Week Seven Pittsburgh Steelers Keys to Victory Number Two: Attack a Weak Bengals Offensive Line
The weak link of the Bengals offense is their line, following the losses of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. Left tackle Cedric Oqbuehi might be their best linemen, but he’ll have his hands full with a combination of Heyward and Bud Dupree. Stephon Tuitt will be matched up against right tackle Jake Fisher, who will have T.J. Watt to deal with as well. While Tuitt and Heyward could have big days, the matchup to watch is Javon Hargrave against Russell Bodine. Bodine may have immense upper body strength, but he doesn’t move all that well.
Hargrave can match Bodine’s strength, and is very agile for a man his size. His day will likely be spent tying up multiple blockers, as Bodine can’t handle him one on one. His efforts will open up rushing lanes to Dalton, creating room for Vince Williams and Shazier to make plays. The Bengals have the worst offensive line in the NFL. The Steelers have one of the league’s best defensive front’s. They need to attack the Bengals line and shut down the run early. Once their offense is one dimensional, the Steelers can pin their ears back and go after Dalton. This could easily be another six or seven sack performance.
Week Seven Pittsburgh Steelers Keys to Victory Number Three: Get Martavis Bryant Involved
Martavis Bryant has caught 16 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns in four career games versus the Bengals. The Steelers most dangerous deep threat is still rusty from a year long suspension and needs to be more involved. They have been using him mostly on bubble screens and shorter routes, but it’s time to use him deep. The Bengals represent the best opportunity to do so. Bryant, who’s had issues getting open lately, has had success against the Bengals, and matches up well with their secondary. The quicker the Steelers can get Bryant going, the better off the offense will be.
Week Seven Pittsburgh Steelers Keys to Victory Number Four: Keep Ringing The Bell
Bell is once again running like the best in the NFL. He has 91 carries for 400 yards in five career games against the Bengals, suffering season ending knee injuries in two of them. In total, he has actually played the equivalent of four complete games against the Bengals. Bell should get at least 30 carries against Cincinnati, who have yet to stop him without cheap shots. The strategy should be to control the clock with Bell and wear the Bengals defensive front down. Once he starts ripping off nice chunks of yardage, that should open up things for Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bryant.
The Steelers are clearly the better team in this matchup, but they won’t take the Bengals lightly. They’re in the driver’s seat of the AFC North and are looking to create separation. This game is as big as the Chiefs game in many ways, and the Steelers view it as such. It’s an opportunity to develop consistency. An opportunity to begin stacking wins for a coveted first round bye. Above all though, it’s a chance to put down another division opponent. After all, to reach their second goal, which is a first round bye, the Steelers must win their division, and the Bengals represent another step towards that first goal.