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For the first time in years, the Steelers have a question at quarterback. Now, I’m not saying that there haven’t been years where their former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured, but now they don’t have a true franchise quarterback on the roster (sure, maybe Kenny Pickett is). Their opponent does have their franchise quarterback, one looking to make his third year more memorable than the second was.
For the Steelers, expect a strong dose of Najee Harris. The running game is almost certainly going to have to be the main area of attack from the Steelers. I could see a lot of dump-offs to Harris as well, but some of the big chunk plays are not what I’d expect out of this new offense. Mitch Trubisky is equipped with the best offense he has ever been fully in charge of. The problem is, even as bad as the Bears set him up with, he never was the most accurate passer and struggled with deep balls. My guess is that the Steelers are going to do a lot of slants, outs, and curls instead of looking to try and attack with passes over 20 yards in the air. Still, Trubisky can be crafty, he also learned from Josh Allen for a year so he might have learned a bit on when to run versus when to throw the ball away. The Steelers are known for their defense most of the time anyway, and it will be a good one again, but slowing down Cincinnati might be tough.
Joe Burrow is back under center after being within minutes of winning the Super Bowl. The Bengals should have continuity on their side as just about all of their important skill players are returning. The connection between Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase should deepen in yet another year together. Joe Mixon is used well within this offense and he responds to most of the opportunities he is given. The Bengals defense did well in the playoffs last year, but they weren’t unbeatable. I do think they will likely load the box against the Steelers and try to let Trubisky throw on them. I’m sure the Steelers will be expecting that. The Bengals may need to shift to zone coverage and that could help the pass defense, but it does open things up for Harris.
Overall, this game is a divisional matchup and they are always a bit tricky to predict. However, in this case, I think that we do have an edge with the Bengals. They have the better team and want to come out proving that the Super Bowl appearance wasn’t a fluke last year. Plus, I’ll be late to the Trubisky train if he is actually good. I’m taking the Bengals -6.5 at -110.
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