The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their fourteenth regular season game of 2020 Monday night on the road at Paul Brown Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals as they look to notch their twelfth win after suffering back-to-back losses in their last two games. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game to come away with a big road win against the Bengals and move to 12-2 on the season and win the AFC North in the process.
Boyd Again – The Steelers defense did a number on Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd in the Week 10 meeting between the two teams as they held the University of Pittsburgh product to six catches for 41 yards and no touchdowns. As good of a season as Bengals rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins has had, Boyd should still be the main focus of the Steelers defense Monday night in Cincinnati. If they duplicate the job they did against Boyd in Week 10, it will go a long way in securing a road win. Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley must be forced to move the football through the air to Higgins most of the game.
Even Faster Start – Against the Bengals in Week 10, the Steelers only managed a 12-0 lead through the first quarter of play. While that was a nice start, the first two scoring drives were field goals and thus it remained a one possession game until late in the first quarter. The Bengals hung around most of the game and it allowed their offense to stay within the game plan until late in the third quarter. This time around, the Steelers need to bury the Bengals by halftime. This game shouldn’t be close and thus the hope is the team can get several starters out of the game in the fourth quarter and begin getting them rested for the short Week 16 that awaits. Anything less than a 16-point halftime lead Monday night will be disappointing.
Let’s Get Physical, Physical – The narrative concerning the Steelers the last few weeks is that the team hasn’t been physical enough, and especially on the offensive side of the football. It is worth noting, however, that the team did have to play three games in 12 days and in several of those they were missing at least one starting offensive lineman. The Steelers have now had more than a week to lick their collective wounds incurred in their back-to-back losses and with the damaged Bengals now on tap Monday night, the stage is set for the team to have their most physical and most dominating performance of the season. The Steelers running game hasn’t been much to talk about for way over a month and that needs to change Monday night in Cincinnati. There will be several talking points after the Steelers Monday night game against the Bengals but the team lacking physicality shouldn’t be one of those.
Catch The Damn Ball – The Steelers eligibles have been awful the last several weeks when it comes to drops. Second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson has led the drop brigade the last several weeks and tight end Eric Ebron hasn’t been too far behind. Even wide receivers Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster haven’t been perfect. Monday night in Cincinnati, the Steelers eligibles should all have plenty of chances to show that the drop problem is more mental related than anything. Another round of Dropsburgh Monday night will most definitely lead to the game being a lot closer than it probably should be. Just catch the passes thrown and all should be good.
Explosives On The Tracks – Against the Buffalo Bills in Week 15, the Steelers registered just one offensive explosive play of 20 yards or longer and via a short underneath crossing route to Smith-Schuster off play-action and with Roethlisberger under center. In the last three games the offense has totaled just seven explosive plays of 20 yards or longer. That dismal offensive explosive performance stretch came after the team registered seven such plays against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11. Explosive plays are a must in the NFL and especially during the playoffs. Whether they are throw short and run long or throw long and run short, the Steelers offense must get back on the track of producing a minimum of five explosive plays of 20 yards or longer Monday night in Cincinnati.