3 under-the-radar Bengals who must contribute vs. Steelers in Week 3
By Riley Thomas
Under-the-radar Bengals vs. Steelers – No. 2: Running backs in pass protection
It’s no secret, the Bengals’ are giving up far too many sacks right now. In two games, Joe Burrow is getting sacked 4.5 times per game. Clearly, this is not ideal by any means.
What’s interesting is most of the Bengals’ offensive line has been decent to good in pass protection on one-on-one matchups. This is proven by their pass block win rate that ranks seventh in the NFL.
The Steelers have a terrifying pass rush, the protection has to be better. Pittsburgh’s rush last season was simply absurd. Both T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt were third and fourth in total pressures last year.
Watt sustained an injury in Week 2 and could miss Sunday’s game. Tuitt is still on injured reserve with a knee injury, so he will miss the Bengals game. If Watt and Tuitt are out, that makes blocking easier. The combination of Melvin Ingram, Cameron Heyward, and Pittsburgh’s frequent blitzing still creates a problem.
Ingram is beginning his season off strong with 11 pressures so far. With this production, he’s maybe even an upgrade over the former Steeler Bud Dupree. The offensive line is still going to be beaten some in pass protection, the Steelers rush is elite.
So how does Cincinnati combat that and help the line? Tight ends and running backs will be used for extra protection sometimes. Not properly picking up blitzes is one reason Cincinnati is giving up so many sacks right now. This is due to the running backs’ rough start in pass protection. Both Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine have been very bad in pass protection.
This becomes an even bigger problem when the Bengals are playing the Steelers’ good pass rush that involves blitzing frequently. Pittsburgh will probably blitz quite a bit to challenge Cincinnati’s backs in pass protection.
If Mixon and Perine continue to struggle this much in helping the offensive line, Burrow is in for another long day. The running backs have to get better in pass protection this weekend.