Bengals center: O-line play ‘elite’ in second matchup vs. Steelers

Cincinnati allows just two sacks in win over Pittsburgh

After giving up seven sacks in the season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, theCincinnati Bengals’ offensive line was looking forward to a second chance against that defensive front.

On Sunday, the Cincinnati offensive line finally showed it could hold up against elite pass rushers, and the influence that can have on the outcome of a game.

Joe Burrow was sacked just two times and threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns, while the five-man line protecting him played one of its best games of the season. And, the Bengals beat the Steelers 37-30 for their first AFC North win.

“That’s our goal is to make him feel comfortable and have space to really follow through because he throws one of the best footballs around and he was really dialing up receivers,” center Ted Karras said. “And I thought as an offensive unit we did a great job.”

Left tackle Jonah Williams looked back at that sloppy opener as an example of how the offense starts with him and his fellow offensive linemen. While it wasn’t a good day for them, Burrow struggled with five turnovers and the Bengals ended up with an overtime loss in a game they still had chances to win despite their struggles on offense.

Cincinnati followed that with a loss to Dallas, where the offensive line had trouble with the Micah Parsons-led Dallas pass rush, and the Bengals allowed another six sacks in a 20-17 defeat. The offensive play has been better since then, but perhaps the worst performance of the season came in Week 8 against Myles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney, as the Browns sacked Burrow five times and the Bengals managed just 229 yards of offense.

“I look at our offense, and I look at our line as kind of one unit,” Williams said. “I don’t think there’s been very many games this year where the line has done well, and the offense has done bad or the offense has done well and the line has done bad. I think that for the most part we’re working as a unit. There’s games where the offense as a whole doesn’t do well and our line doesn’t do well, and it’s kind of a symbiotic relationship there. And this was a game (Sunday) where the line did well and the offense did well, and pretty much every time we’ve done that we’ve won the game. And so, I look at it as a big picture thing. We were just doing our jobs to help the offense be successful and did a solid job (Sunday).”

Williams, who was charged with giving up two sacks, four hurries and seven pressures in the opener, was one of the Bengals’ top-graded players Sunday, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He allowed just one pressure, one hurry and no sacks while containing Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.

Highsmith had three sacks in the first matchup.

“The opener was a bad game for everyone,” Williams said. “I mean we had 102 plays of offense. I think I had 65 dropback one on ones, so I did lose a couple and I had to get back from that. But I look at that sort of stuff as like every play could be a sack or not a sack, depending on what happens outside of you. So for me, it’s just about what am I doing, what’s my technique, everything like that. I don’t look at the stats and stuff like that because there are some situations are a lot easier and a lot tougher than others.

“You know, he’s (Highsmith is) a good player, and I know he got a sack this game. There was a little bit of defensive holding going on too. I don’t know if that’s been pointed out yet, but it was pretty egregious. So yeah, but he’s a good player. And it was good to eliminate it. They have a bunch of studs on that D-line. So to keep them pretty quiet was good for us.”

Karras called the offensive tackle play for the Bengals on Sunday “elite” and said that’s usually the key to beating the Steelers. Right tackle La’el Collins gave up one sack, two hurries and three pressures, according to PFF.com, but had a better showing in a big against Watt, the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, than the first meeting.

Burrow, in his postgame press conference Sunday, credited the tackles for the job they do in an offensive scheme that puts them in a lot of tough situations. Asked about those comments, Williams said it’s something about the tackle position with this team that most people don’t realize.

“That’s the challenge of the position, and that’s kind of the deal,” he said. “So you have to go into the game, knowing that you’re going to be asked to do some tough jobs, and when we’re successful, it’s exciting. We win games, we do really well, and so you know, it’s a challenge. It is the style of offense that we play, it is a lot of dropback and it’s a lot of one on ones. But you know, that’s the challenge of my job. And that’s why I’m working to get better at it every day.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Bengals at Titans, 1 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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