The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a crucial victory to move to 3-6, which is one they certainly hope to build off moving forward. This coming Sunday, the team will rematch against AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals, who they beat in a wild Week 1 game. With around ten games in the books for both teams, it’s easy to get an idea for what both teams look like. As such, here are five numbers to watch for in Sunday’s matchup.
6. The Pittsburgh Steelers have only had one game with a receiver going for over 100 yards in George Pickens Week 4 outing against the New York Jets. This is tied for the second-worst in the NFL, as the receivers have not been a productive group for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Bengals have six 100-yard receiving games on the season, which is tied for third in the NFL. In games that feature a 100-yard receiver, the Bengals are 4-1, with their lone loss being against Pittsburgh in Week one.
The Bengals’ offense may have a good matchup in the slot, as receiver Tyler Boyd lining up against slot corner Arthur Maulet is ideal for them on paper. Boyd has two 100-yard games this season, as the former Pitt Panther has more than the entire Steelers’ receiving core. With top receiver Ja’Marr Chase out, expect Boys to be a featured target.
18.8. According to Pro Football Focus, Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow is blitzed at the lowest rate in the NFL. Of quarterbacks with at least 99 drop backs on the season, Burrow is blitzed at the lowest rate of drop backs at 18.8%. While his stat line is better when blitzed, one key difference stands out. That is, Burrow has a 118.0 passer rating, and a 5.4% turnover-worthy throw rate when blitzed. When he is not blitzed, his passer rating is 99.3, while his rate of turnover-worthy throws goes down to 1.8%. The sample size of Burrow drop backs when he’s not blitzed is about 4 times bigger than the former.
That being said, a 5.4% rate is high, and the Steelers might benefit from trying out a few blitzes. Meanwhile, the Steelers are coming off a game where they blitzed 9.4% of the time, a season low by far. This was likely due to the team’s reliance on the four-man rush with the return of TJ Watt. In Week 1 against the Bengals, the Steelers blitzed Burrow 21.0% of the time, which is right around his season average. The Steelers’ blitz frequency on Sunday will be telling, as will Burrow’s response.
2016. The Steelers rushed for over 200 yards against the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, which was an outlier among outliers considering their previous struggles running the ball. For more context, this was the first time the team rushed for over 200 yards since December of 2016 against the Buffalo Bills, a game where former running back Le’Veon Bell ran for a career high. The Bengals run defense is allowing 118.8 yards per game, which ranks 17th in the NFL. If the Steelers continue their success in running the ball against Cincinnati, they will be very hard to beat.
6. The Steelers are 4.5 point underdogs against the Cincinnati Bengals. This marks the sixth straight game where the team is an underdog, which is the longest streak since 1991. This is the 7th time in franchise history that the team has a streak of over 5 games as underdogs. The team went seven straight games as underdogs in 1991, going 2-5. This time around, they are 2-3 and looking to improve to 3-3 in said streak. If they do so, it will be the first time that they have a .500 or better record as underdogs in said streak of being underdogs.
8.4. According to PFF’s premium stats, Burrow only throws deep (over 20 air yards) 8.4% of the time, which is the fifth lowest in the league. When he does, however, he throws for a 108.6 passer rating with four touchdowns and an interception. Meanwhile, the Steelers’ defense allows 11.9 yards per deep throw, which ranks right around league average at 17th. They also rank 8th for number of deep passes attempted against them at 61, and have allowed eight touchdowns and four interceptions on said throws. While Burrow does not throw it deep often, the Steelers must be prepared for him to do so.