Bold Predictions for Steelers' Week 1 Matchup vs. Joe Burrow, Bengals

Joe TanseySeptember 7, 2022

Bold Predictions for Steelers' Week 1 Matchup vs. Joe Burrow, Bengals

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 28:  Mitch Trubisky #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium on August 28, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to keep pace with the Cincinnati Bengals in two meetings last season.

    Pittsburgh retooled its offense during the offseason, but it still may not have enough firepower to compete with the reigning AFC champion in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season.

    The Steelers are still at a disadvantage at quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky was confirmed as the top quarterback on the depth chart earlier this week. He could be an upgrade over Ben Roethlisberger, but he is nowhere close to matching Joe Burrow's career stats.

    Mike Tomlin and his staff made some upgrades to the talent pool around Trubisky. George Pickens appears to be a second-round steal and Jaylen Warren came on in training camp as an undrafted free agent to back up Najee Harris.

    But the offense's performance still comes down to Trubisky and how he can get the ball to the playmakers. That may be the biggest problem Pittsburgh faces on Sunday.

Mitchell Trubisky Fails to Throw Multiple TD Passes

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 28:  Mitch Trubisky #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the game against the Detroit Lions at Acrisure Stadium on August 28, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Mitchell Trubisky produced multiple touchdown passes in a season opener once in three attempts with the Chicago Bears.

    Trubisky only had one touchdown pass in the first game he played in his rookie season. That appearance came in Week 5.

    Those numbers do not come as a complete surprise since Trubisky had 17 multi-touchdown performances in 46 games in which he attempted more than 20 passes.

    The logic behind Trubisky reversing some of his old form in Chicago should point out the increase in talent around him in Pittsburgh compared to when he was with the Bears.

    Trubisky has two No. 1 wide receivers in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, a strong rookie wideout in George Pickens, a nice second-year tight end in Pat Freiermuth and one of the league's best running backs in Najee Harris.

    With all of that talent around him, it seems like Trubisky would improve his totals, but he will be playing in his first regular-season game with all of those players against a Cincinnati defense that held opponents under 20 points in eight games last season, two of those performances were against the Steelers.

    The Bengals know how to deal with Claypool, Harris and Johnson and they should put pressure on Trubisky from the start to take him out of any comfort zone in the pocket.

    Cincinnati's defense pressure could lead to Trubisky receiving few chances to produce a touchdown pass, and if the Bengals play as well as they did last year against Pittsburgh, they could hold the Steelers' new starter without a touchdown pass.

Cincinnati Posts Similar Point Total as 2021 Game in Ohio

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. The Rams won 23-20. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
    Michael Owens/Getty Images

    Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase are still lining up on the opposite end of the field on Sunday.

    That is a thought that should terrify the Steelers after what happened in Cincinnati in November. The Bengals tied their season high of 41 points in the November 28 win over the Steelers.

    Cincinnati put up that high point total despite Burrow only throwing 24 passes and for 190 yards. Joe Mixon wrecked the Steelers' defense in that game by running for 165 yards and two scores.

    Mixon could still be effective on Sunday, but the Steelers may be hurt more by Burrow, who opened the 2021 campaign with 261 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings.

    If Burrow is given more time to throw in the pocket, the Bengals' rout could be on before the teams get into the locker rooms at halftime.

    A blowout loss to a divisional rival may not be the ideal start for the Steelers in 2022, but they are still an incomplete product compared to what the Bengals bring back.

Chase Claypool Emerges as Top Passing Game Target

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 16: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) talks with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during a timeout in the first quarter of an AFC wild card playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan 16, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Trubisky could still find a No. 1 target even if he gets outplayed by Burrow.

    Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson will compete for the highest amount of targets every week. The competition should be good for the Steelers' offense, but there may be situations in which one player shines above the other.

    Both players found success on the road in Cincinnati last season. Johnson had nine catches for 95 yards and Claypool produced three catches for 82 yards.

    Claypool had fewer receptions on the road against the Bengals, but that could change on Sunday if more attention is paid to Johnson.

    Johnson has four games with 59 receiving yards or more in the last five meetings with the Bengals. That could lead to an increased focus on him from the Cincinnati secondary.

    Claypool could have that advantage, as well as the big-play threat, in his favor as Trubisky looks to develop some bits of chemistry with his new teammates in regular-season action.

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