The Pittsburgh Steelers are back home for a second-straight week as they host the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field.
It's a "red hot AFC North kitchen" on the North Shore between two 1-1 division teams. It might only be Week 3, but the winner of this one could determine the playoff outcome later this season - not saying the Bengals are a playoff team.
The Steelers are looking to bounce back after an unfortunate loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2. With the fans back in Pittsburgh and the AFC North in town, it's the perfect time to get this season back on track.
Here's how they can do it.
Slowing Joe Mixon
The Bengals might still be developing, but Joe Mixon is pretty complete. The all-around running back shines at, well, everything. From pass protection to catching out the backfield to rushing for nearly 200 yards in two weeks, Mixon has done it all in a short season.
"If they can run the ball early and create those type of things where they're second-and-four, second-and-five, then you really don't know what they're going to do," Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. "If you get them in second-and-nine and stuff like that, you pretty much know what they're going to do. They become unpredictable if they start running the football. They keep your offense off the field."
The Steelers o found success in stopping the run this season but haven't faced a running back like Mixon yet. Week 3 brings plenty of offense but none more of a threat than their running back.
Jamir Jones Can't Get Lost
Everyone feels pretty confident in Melvin Ingram replacing T.J. Watt, but Jamir Jones will play almost the entire game replacing Alex Highsmith.
For someone who spent last season working odd-end jobs instead of playing football, that's a tough task to accomplish without drifting off from time to time.
Jones didn't really impress when on the field against the Raiders. He'll need a decent game in Week 3 for this defense to stay consistent.
Big Ben Can't Get Hit 10 Times
The offensive line has every single eye on them in Week 3. After letting Ben Roethlisberger hit the ground 10 times against Las Vegas and then getting called out for not helping him up, there's added pressure to a group that's already had everyone watching.
This week might be a make-or-break week for this group. The Steelers know it's their weakest link offensively and with Roethlisberger already dealing with a pectoral injury, another poor performance could have Kevin Colbert looking for outside help.
The Bengals' defense isn't the Raiders, but that might just mean it looks even worse for the o-line if they let Big Ben hit the ground this weekend.
Replacing Diontae Johnson
JuJu Smith-Schuster has always been Roethlisberger's reliable target but losing Diontae Johnson is no easy task to overcome. 22 targets through two weeks aren't going to be filled by one person, leaving pressure on everyone in Week 3.
Chase Claypool always finds his one big catch, but this weekend, he needs more. The biggest downfall of this second-year wideout is that he's inconsistent. One play, he comes down with a phenomenal in-traffic grab. The next, he drops the football.
A lot of this week's passing success will live and die through Claypool. James Washington and maybe Ray-Ray McCloud could also be names Roethlisberger looks to get involved.
Using Heinz Field
The fans are rowdy but after losing a home opener where Steelers Nation was present for the first time in two years, people are going to be wary about really giving it their all in the stands.
The Steelers need to make sure they don't start slow in this one and put Cincinnati away early. A lead in the first quarter will make it twice as hard for the Bengals' offense to get anything done. Why? Because Heinz Field will be rocking.
The fans are back. Home-field advantage is now a real thing again.
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