The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Cincinnati Bengals Monday night on the road and below are seven things to watch for in the game.
Will He Help? - Fullback Will Johnson should be back on the field this week after not playing last week due to an injured hamstring. The Steelers like to use a lot of 21 and 22 personnel on offense and they were not able to do that last Sunday thanks to his absence. If things go well Monday night, Johnson will play roughly 20 or so snaps and he can help out not only in the run game as a lead blocker, but also in the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield.
Two Tight - The Bengals love to use their 12 personnel grouping on offense that features perhaps the best tight end tandem in the league in the form of Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden loves to move Eifert around all over the place in order to create matchup mismatches. The Steelers will likely use rookie safety Shamarko Thomas in their main sub package to help defend on passing downs and it won't be surprising to see a dime back used in addition on obvious passing downs. If these two tight ends combine to catch 10 balls in this game, the Steelers will more than likely lose.
Atkins Diet - Steelers right guard David DeCastro will get his second crack at Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who pretty much owned him late last season in the Week 16 game. If DeCastro wants to be an elite guard in this league, he must keep Atkins out the Steelers backfield and off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at all cost.
Green With Envy - Cornerback Ike Taylor is not going to shut out wide receiver A.J. Green Monday night, but as long as he can keep the Bengals premier offensive player somewhat in check and not allow explosive plays, it will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. The Steelers must give Taylor help over the top in the form of a safety in this game.
Fernando The Great - New Steelers center Fernando Velasco will likely make the start Monday night against a team he played well against during the preseason. In that game, the former Tennessee Titans center kept Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko in check. Velasco should get help from left guard Ramon Foster with the line calls in this game, so that means all he has to worry about is executing.
Rey Of Hope - Against the Chicago Bears in Week 1, the Bengals defense allowed 4.5 yards per rush on eight plays run off right guard. In addition, they allowed and average of 7 yards per pass play that went to the short right side of the field and the Bears completed 62.5% of those passes. Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is the weakest link in the Bengals defense and the Steelers offense must find a way to exploit him both on the ground and through the air.
Work Up To The Deep End - If the offense can show any semblance of a running game early on, it will open up play-action for Roethlisberger, which will allow him to take a few shots deep down the field for explosive plays. Last week against the Bears, quarterback Jay Cutler was 5-of-6 passing on his throws that traveled 14 or more yards past the line of scrimmage and 2-of-2 on passes thrown 20 yards or more down the field.