The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the rematch against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. The Bengals will be visiting Acrisure Stadium after the opening week 23-20 overtime loss and will find a very different-looking Steelers offense. Defense ruled the day for the Steelers in the NFL opener against the defending AFC champions, with the Steelers sacking Joe Burrow seven times and Minkah Fitzpatrick refusing to let the black and gold fall to the Bengals.
Jessie Bates has a theory why Kenny Pickett has replaced Mitch Trubisky as Steelers QB. "Hopefully we can go in there how we did last year and whoop up on them a little bit." pic.twitter.com/WXgTBQ9fdb
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) November 17, 2022
“I don’t know if the schemes have changed as much,” Jesse Bates said to reporters. “Plug in some of their playmakers that they have been able to draft, as far as them losing Claypool and stuff like that. I just think Kenny Pickett has done a really good job scrambling, using his feet.”
Kenny Pickett will get his first crack at a division foe and the Steelers fresh off a season-saving win against the New Orleans Saints need another one. Pickett is coming off his first career win and his first turnover-free game. Jesse Bates is arguably the best defensive player on the Cincinnati Bengals and one of the top safeties in the NFL. Pickett has rushed for three touchdowns in five games and last week against the Saints he rushed for over 50 yards. When the quarterback becomes a true threat to run in the NFL, it is a nightmare for opposing defenses and Bates knows it. Pickett’s runs last week were almost exclusively to escape pressure.
“(He ran) To extend drives and giving his players a chance to make a play on the ball,” Bates concluded. “I think Mitchell was kind of taking some sacks and that is why they made the change. I know Coach Tomlin is going to have them more than prepared. Hopefully we can just go in there like last year and whoop up on them a little bit.”
Mitch Trubisky is arguably more mobile than Pickett, but he seemed hesitant to run when pressured. Neither he nor the rookie signal-caller has shown what they can do on RPO keepers which would seem to be the primary benefit of having a quarterback willing to run the ball. Pickett especially is a reluctant but effective runner, and his willingness to gash the defense against New Orleans led to Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren’s increased effectiveness on the ground.
The pass rush had to account for Pickett and that extra split second gave a struggling offensive line a chance to shine. Matt Canada did his best job as an offensive coordinator in helping to create an effective running game, by mixing his play calling on first down. The subtle change in play calling and Pickett’s newfound willingness to be more aggressive in picking up first downs with his feet were a huge key for a struggling offense. The black and gold were less predictable partially by design and partially by the rookie’s willingness to improvise. The sum benefit was a beautifully balanced performance.
The Bengals embarrassed the Steelers twice last season and were not shy about calling the Steelers quitters. Bates’ tone was muted but he just couldn’t resist a small reminder of last season. Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is recovering from appendicitis, has seemingly made a miraculous recovery from surgery and expects to play against the Bengals. The opponent is not a coincidence, hatred for your divisional rival has magical healing powers. At least it does, in the Pittsburgh Steelers training room.
What do you think Steeler Nation? Are you excited about the return engagement on Sunday of the next round of this nasty rivalry? Comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.