Sun, 27 Nov 2022

Cheat Sheet: Steelers vs. Bengals

The Steelers
21 Nov 2022, 05:30 GMT+10

Matt Williamson

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

TV coverage: Broadcast nationally on CBS (KDKA-TV locally in Pittsburgh).Steelers Radio Network - Game coverage begins at 4:25 p.m. ET; Pregame programming begins at 12:25 p.m.; Postgame coverage starts immediately following the game.Don't miss a minute of the action... check out all of the ways that you can watch, listen and follow along on gameday. Click here >>>

INJURY UPDATE

The Steelers are at home again as they face the Bengals at Acrisure Stadium.

Check out the most updated Injury Report: Click here >>>

SERIES HISTORY

This series began in 1970 and Pittsburgh leads the series 68-38. Two of those games occurred in the postseason, in 2006 and 2016, with the Steelers winning both of those contests. Of course, the Steelers won the most recent meeting in Week 1, but Cincinnati won the previous three matchups. Before that, Pittsburgh was on an 11-game winning streak. Cincinnati has won just 12 of the 47 games between these divisional rivals that have been played in the 2000s.

MATCHUP OVERVIEW

Both teams were 4-2 in the AFC North last year, but in their two head-to-head meetings, the Bengals won both games and by a combined score of 65-20. The Steelers have the edge this year with a 23-20 Week 1 victory.In that game, Cincinnati racked up 32 first downs against 13 by the Steelers. The Bengals ran an amazing 94 plays in that game and held the football for 43:42. Cincinnati was also minus-5 in turnover differential and minus-6 in sack differential. The Steelers averaged 4.4 yards per play to 4.6 for Cincinnati.In the Bengals' most recent game, a 42-21 win over Carolina, Cincinnati produced 30 first downs compared to 13 by the Panthers. Cincinnati had 39:21 of possession time in that game while running 72 offensive plays. The Bengals produced 6.4 yards per play and finished that game with 464 yards from scrimmage. They were also plus-3 in turnover differential.Coming off their Week 10 bye week, the Bengals are 2-3 on the road and 0-3 within the AFC North. They have outscored their opponents by 43 points. The Steelers have been outscored by 67 points this year, but 57 of that came in just two games vs. Buffalo and Philadelphia.The Bengals average 5.5 yards per play, tied for 12th in the league. The Bengals allow 5.3 yards per play on defense. That also ranks 12th.The Bengals are plus-3 in turnover differential compared to minus-2 for the Steelers. They have one more takeaway than Pittsburgh (13 to 12). The Steelers' 10 interceptions are better than all but four NFL defenses.The Bengals hold the ball for 32:04 per game. Only the Commanders and Ravens are better. After possessing the football for 38:56 last week, Pittsburgh is now up to 30:36 per game, which ranks 12th.The Bengals throw the ball 62.4 percent of the time, the eighth-highest rate in the league. Pittsburgh is at 60.2 percent, which is 14th.Cincinnati is minus-18 in sack differential. The Bengals have given up 32 sacks but have only gotten to opposing quarterbacks on 14 occasions.The Bengals' 18 passing touchdowns are double the scores through the air they have allowed. Cincinnati has scored 28 touchdowns compared to the 17 by their collective opponents.With last week's defeat over New Orleans, Mike Tomlin has now beaten every team in the NFL as a head coach other than the Steelers.After playing the Steelers in Week 11, the combined remaining win-loss record the Bengals are to face is currently 38-26 and have collectively outscored their opponents by 219 points in 2022.

WHEN PITTSBURGH HAS THE BALL

Last week Kenny Pickett attempted five passes between the numbers and completed four of those attempts for 54 yards.Pickett is getting the ball out of his hands in 2.77 seconds on average. That is right around league average.Diontae Johnson is getting a 26 percent target share in Pittsburgh's passing game. His 435 receiving yards is the second most in the NFL for a player that doesn't have a touchdown yet. But according to ESPN's Analytics, AJ Brown is the only wide receiver in the league that has gotten open more often than Johnson this year. Johnson was fourth in this metric in 2021.Johnson averages 1.18 yards per route run compared to 1.11 by Pickens.Last week Pat Freiermuth saw a whopping 27 percent of the passing targets. Among all NFL tight ends, Freiermuth ranks seventh in yards per route run (1.71) and fifth in target rate per route run (23.3 percent). He has seven or more targets in six of his eight games this year. Freiermuth led the Steelers in receiving yards in the first meeting with five catches for 75 yards.Of the Bengals 14 sacks this year, 7.5 of them are from Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. Mitch Trubisky was sacked just once in Week 1.Last week was the first time the Steelers have produced 200 or more yards on the ground since 2016.Over their past two games, Pittsburgh's offense has churned out 361 rushing yards.Against the Saints, Najee Harris was on the field for 50 snaps compared to 35 by Jaylen Warren. However, on third downs, Warren played 9 of 12 snaps. Harris had 20 carries compared to nine by Warren and ran a pass route on 16 occasions compared to 14 routes by Warren.The last two games, Harris has handled 58.8 and 56 percent of the backfield touches.Pickett's eight carries last week were a career high. Despite only appearing in six games, Pickett is 12th among quarterbacks in rushing yardage. Seven of the quarterbacks ahead of Pickett have played nine games and the other four have played 10.When DJ Reader has been on the field for the Bengals this year, they allow .89 rushing yards prior to contact. That is best in the league. When Reader is not on the field, Cincinnati allows 1.63, which ranks 26th.The Bengals defense has been on the field for 570 plays this year. Their starting safeties, Vonn Bell (559) and Jessie Bates (553) lead the defense in snaps played. Every other defensive player has been absent for 99 possible plays or more. Eight defenders have logged over 400 snaps and 19 have played at least 97 defensive snaps.The Steelers have been excellent in converting on fourth downs. For the season, they are converting 75 percent of their fourth down attempts, which leads the NFL.Over their past four games not including overtime, the Steelers are running 72.7 plays per game, which is the most in the league over that stretch. They are also having the fourth-most dropbacks per game during that timeframe.

WHEN CINCINNATI HAS THE BALL

The only quarterbacks in the league ahead of Joe Burrow in EPA currently are Tua Tagovailoa, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Geno Smith.Burrow's average time to throw of 2.57 seconds is quicker than every NFL quarterback other than Tom Brady and PJ Walker. Burrow's average intended air yards of seven yards downfield is higher than just six qualified quarterbacks. However, Josh Allen is the only quarterback in the league with more completions of 40 or more yards.When these teams met in Week 1, Ja'Marr Chase caught 10 passes for 129 yards. Chase has only played in seven games this year, but still leads Cincinnati in receiving yards at 605. That is 86.4 yards per game for Chase. Tee Higgins has 564 receiving yards, and Tyler Boyd sits at 537. Higgins has appeared in every game but has battled injuries. He has played 396 snaps compared to 496 by Boyd and 467 from Chase. Higgins produces 1.99 yards every time he runs a route compared to 1.96 by Chase and 1.57 by Boyd.In the two games Burrow has played without Chase, he has 232 and 206 passing yards. That is two of his three lowest totals of the year. Also, in the two games without Chase, Boyd has been targeted a total of 11 times. Boyd has caught eight passes over those two games for 82 yards.Burrow has thrown just two interceptions since playing the Steelers in Week 1.Joe Mixon produced 145 total yards in Week 1. In Cincinnati's most recent game, Mixon rushed for 153 yards, caught four passes for 58 yards and scored five total touchdowns. The Bengals ran for 241 yards in that win over Carolina. However, Mixon averages just 2.4 yards after first contact which is a half a yard worse than league average. And only 8 percent of his rushing attempts this year have gone for 10 or more yards, well below league average.Even with that big rushing output in their most recent game, Cincinnati averages just 98.8 rushing yards per game. Just five teams average less. And the Bengals 4.0 yards per rushing attempt also ranks 27th.Mixon's 585 rushing yards leads his team by a wide margin. Burrow is second on the team, contributing 141 yards on the ground. Mixon also dominates snap counts by Cincinnati running backs at 443 compared to 168 from Samaje Perine. No other Bengals running back has seen the field this year for more than a dozen plays.Mixon has racked up 402 total yards against the Steelers in the most recent three meetings.Mixon's career high in targets for a season is 55, and he has never caught more than 43 balls in a single year. Thus far in 2022, Mixon has already been targeted 50 times and has caught 38 passes.Much like the Steelers, Cincinnati's offensive line has been quite healthy this year. Cordell Volson hasn't missed one of a possible 616 snaps. Jonah Williams, Alex Cappa, and Ted Karras have missed a combined 20 snaps. La'el Collins has played 591 of those possible 616 snaps.The Bengals have committed just four holding penalties, the lowest amount in the NFL.When isolating EPA on just third and fourth downs, Kansas City is the only offense in the league that is better than the Bengals. But on early downs (first and second down), the Bengals come in at 14th.On third down and seven or more yards to go, Burrow is an amazing 28 of 35 for 384 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions.The Bengals give up a sack on 8.7 percent of their dropbacks. The only teams with a higher percentage are the Titans, Falcons, Giants and Bears.Watt has 15 sacks in his last seven home games.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Evan McPherson has only attempted 15 field goals in the Bengals' nine games this year. He has missed four of them.The Steelers now are collectively 16 of 22 on their field goal attempts.

THE ADVANCED SCOUT PODCAST

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MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

December 31st, 2006: Steelers 23, Bengals 17 (OT), Heinz Field

Coming into this final week of the 2006 regular season, the Bengals needed to win this game to get into the postseason. The Steelers were out of the playoff race. This was Bill Cowher's final game as the Steelers head coach and he produced a great quote, "Let me just say this. Misery loves company. And we're looking for company." Cowher got his wish as his Steelers took Cincinnati to the wire and kept the divisional rival out of the playoffs. Two great quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, battled it out and the Steelers got 134 rushing yards from Willie Parker on 34 carries. In overtime, Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes on a quick slant that Holmes took to the house to crush Cincinnati's postseason dreams as the Steelers rallied from a 2-6 start to finish 8-8.

FACTS FROM NFL RESEARCH

Since 2017, the Steelers are 5-1-1 against teams that are coming off a bye - best record in such games in the NFL since 2017 (min. 2 such games) - 0-1-1 in last 2: Tied DET in Week 10, 2021 & L, at PHI in Week 8, 2022 - 2 of the Steelers 5 such wins are vs the Bengals (2017 & 2020)Alex Highsmith leads PIT with 8.5 sacks (T-4th in NFL), 8 TFL, 3 FF in 2022 - Only player in NFL with 7+ sacks & 3+ FF in 2022Joe Burrow was sacked 7 times by PIT in Week 1 (his most in a game in 2022) - Only 1 QB has been sacked 7+ times in multiple games vs same opponent in a single season over the last 20 years (Chad Henne vs TEN in 2012)T.J. Watt played in Week 10 vs NO, his first game since Week 1 vs CIN (Pec) - Week 10: 4 tackles, played 80.0 pct of def snaps - Week 1: 6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 2 pressures, 2 passes defenseIn their Week 1 matchup, the Steelers defense forced Burrow into 4 INTs - Watt: 2 QB pressures, sack, turnover caused by pressure - Alex Highsmith: 9 QB pressures, 3 sacks, TO cause by pressure - Burrow: Pressured on 36.7 pct of dropbacks, 7 sacks taken - PIT defense: Blitzed on only 11.7 pct of dropbacks

KEY MATCHUPS

Bengals RT La'el Collins vs. Steelers LB TJ Watt - Watt is back. He didn't record a sack against the Saints, but Watt had a massive impact on the game as a whole as well as positively affecting his defensive teammates. In the first meeting, Watt had one of the Steelers' seven sacks in what was Collins' first game in a Bengals uniform. Collins has had an up-and-down season, and more often than not, he should get help from a tight end or running back when the Bengals throw the ball ... something Watt is very used to.Steelers WRs Diontae Johnson and George Pickens vs. Bengals Cornerbacks - Mike Hilton handles the slot duties for the Bengals, but their outside corners are now Eli Apple and Cam Taylor-Britt with Chidobe Awuzie now on injured reserve. Attacking with Johnson and Pickens on the outside could be a great tactic for the Steelers this week. The Steelers run a high percentage of Go Routes but could also have a lot of success with in-breaking route concepts against Apple and Taylor-Britt.

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