3 Pittsburgh Steelers who can wreck Week 1 for Bengals
Even though the Cincinnati Bengals are 6.5-point favorites per FanDuel over the Pittsburgh Steelers, their Week 1 opponent, that doesn't mean the Steelers can't make things interesting for the reigning AFC champs.
As Bengals fans are well-aware, the Steelers notoriously had Cincinnati's number during the Ben Roethlisberger era. Big Ben only ended up with 10 losses to the Bengals on his resumé when he called it a career last January and three of those losses came in the past two years.
Big Ben was someone who frequently wrecked games for the Bengals. Now that he's gone, who are some Steelers who can do so in Week 1?
All stats courtesy of ESPN
Let's start with the obvious one, shall we?
T.J. Watt could arguably be the best defensive player in the NFL and he's shown a lot of that nastiness against the Bengals in past games. Cincinnati only had to face Watt once last year, as he was inactive for Week 3. He returned in time for their second matchup of the season, however, and was held to zero sacks in that game.
Watt might not have had a sack against the stripes last year but he finished the 2021 season with a whopping 22.5 sacks so it's hard to believe they'll be able to protect Joe Burrow from getting put on the ground by Watt this year. As Stripe Hype's own Rory-Joe Daniels noted in his matchups post, Watt will be facing new right tackle La'el Collins, which is definitely a matchup to watch.
While Collins was brought in for a reason, Watt could definitely give him a rough day at the office. He's absolutely someone who could make Sunday a long day for Burrow and Co.
One of the Steelers I'm most intrigued to see take the field on Sunday is rookie wide receiver, George Pickens. Pittsburgh spent a second-round pick on the Georgia product. He didn't put up big numbers at all during his final year in Georgia but as fans have seen in the preseason, Pickens can ball.
Pickens will likely be going up against Eli Apple in this game and that could be a good thing or a bad thing. Apple started off shaky last year, which was his first with the Bengals, and then came into his own down the stretch.
Unfortunately for Apple, after a ton of trash talking, he was burned in the Super Bowl by one of the league's best receivers for what went on to be the game-winning touchdown. Pickens will have opportunities to make Apple look like a fool so hopefully the good Apple shows up to the game on Sunday. Otherwise, it could be a long day.
Last but not least is safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. In the second Bengals/Steelers game last year, Fitzpatrick picked off Joe Burrow and also had nine tackles and a defended pass. He's one of the best players on the defensive side of the ball in Pittsburgh and with his ball-hawking abilities, don't be surprised if Fitzpatrick is able to keep his receiver in check and potentially snag an interception from Burrow.
A safety isn't going to change the course of the game but Fitzpatrick always seems to play well against the Bengals. He's definitely someone who could make things interesting if the Bengals don't immediately put points on the board and take a commanding lead.
The Bengals are favorites in this game for a reason but these three Steelers could make things closer than we're hoping for.