Steelers up first as Bengals set to defend AFC title


By MITCH STACY - AP Sports Writer



Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, right, give autographs to fans before practice at NFL football training camp in the Latrobe Memorial Stadium in Latrobe, Pa., Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, right, give autographs to fans before practice at NFL football training camp in the Latrobe Memorial Stadium in Latrobe, Pa., Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow throws a pass throws a pass during NFL football training camp in Cincinnati, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)


Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, right, talks to an official during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)


CINCINNATI BENGALS (13-8, Super Bowl runner-up)

New faces: RT La’el Collins, RG Alex Cappa, C Ted Karras, TE Hayden Hurst, TE Nick Eubanks, S Daxton Hill, CB Cam Taylor-Britt.

Key losses: TE C.J. Uzomah, DT Larry Ogunjobi, OL Riley Reiff, CB Trae Waynes, CB Darius Phillips.

Strengths: With the Bengals signing three new offensive linemen, third-year quarterback Joe Burrow should spend more time upright and be even more successful. He missed the first three weeks of training camp after having an appendectomy on July 26, but is expected to be ready for Cincinnati’s opener Sept. 11. Reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd make up one of the best receiver groups in the league. Running back Joe Mixon also will benefit from the improved O-line. Defensive line and linebackers are solid. Kicker Evan McPherson was a fifth-round draft pick last year who became a clutch performer and household name in Cincinnati.

Weaknesses: The Bengals secondary could be inconsistent last season. Safety Jessie Bates III ended a lengthy dispute. Cincinnati has high hopes for their two top draft picks, safety Daxton Hill and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who is out currently with a core muscle injury.

Camp Development: Fourth-round draft pick Cordell Volson has been impressive. He won the starting left guard job away from second-year player Jackson Carman. Rookie Hill likely will start until Bates gets in to playing shape and even then Hill will play a lot.

Fantasy Player To Watch: WR Tee Higgins says he’s 100% healthy after having shoulder surgery following the Super Bowl. With defenses keying on Chase, Higgins will again be an important target for Burrow.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: +2,200. Over/under wins: 9.5.

Expectations: With a healthy Burrow and an overhauled offensive line that could open more lanes for running back Mixon — who has distinguished himself despite being limited by bad blocking in recent years — expectations are off the charts. The secondary is expected to be better with the addition of the two rookies.

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CINCINNATI (AP) — Kenny Pickett — the former Pitt star, Heisman Trophy finalist and first-round draft pick — might be the quarterback of the future for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But for right now, Mitch Trubisky is their man under center.

Trubisky will be the starter when the Steelers open the post-Big Ben era Sunday against the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Sunday at Paycor Stadium.

The Steelers are going to have to worry a little bit about their defense against quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals, who have won the last three games in the series — including a sweep last season as Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played out his final year.

Burrow, who had to recover from an appendectomy at the start of camp after taking the Bengals on an improbable run to the Super Bowl last season, will operate in front of an improved offensive line with four new starters. In the backfield, Burrow will be joined by running back Joe Mixon, who has been a steady, productive presence the past few years despite the lackluster line play.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor is deferential when describing the trust and respect his third-year quarterback has earned.

“It helps you sleep better at night when you have Joe Burrow playing quarterback for you, I can promise you that,” he said.

FIRST LOOK AT NEW O-LINE

The Bengals acted quickly in the offseason to shore up an offensive line that allowed 51 sacks last year, plus another 19 in the postseason.

They spent big money signing free agents and new starters — center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins. Fourth-round draft pick Cordell Volson won the starting spot at left guard. The remaining starter from last year is left tackle Jonah Williams.

THROW ME SOMETHING

Ja’Marr Chase’s 1,455 yards receiving broke a Bengals record and got him selected the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Tee Higgins, who finished last season with 1,091 yards, has recovered from shoulder surgery he had after the Super Bowl.

Veteran Tyler Boyd (828 yards) rounds out the trio of starters. Higgins and Boyd could benefit from the Steelers trying to keep track of Chase.

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AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed.

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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, right, give autographs to fans before practice at NFL football training camp in the Latrobe Memorial Stadium in Latrobe, Pa., Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/09/web1_129663556-e406c53c78e7493cb4a62985593323a3.jpgPittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, right, give autographs to fans before practice at NFL football training camp in the Latrobe Memorial Stadium in Latrobe, Pa., Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow throws a pass throws a pass during NFL football training camp in Cincinnati, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/09/web1_129663556-c34d875f13cd41e781e7fdfd2d8fc2fb.jpgCincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow throws a pass throws a pass during NFL football training camp in Cincinnati, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, right, talks to an official during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/09/web1_129663556-a94e200a151c401f9b30b2abc78412e3.jpgPittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, right, talks to an official during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

By MITCH STACY

AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI BENGALS (13-8, Super Bowl runner-up)

New faces: RT La’el Collins, RG Alex Cappa, C Ted Karras, TE Hayden Hurst, TE Nick Eubanks, S Daxton Hill, CB Cam Taylor-Britt.

Key losses: TE C.J. Uzomah, DT Larry Ogunjobi, OL Riley Reiff, CB Trae Waynes, CB Darius Phillips.

Strengths: With the Bengals signing three new offensive linemen, third-year quarterback Joe Burrow should spend more time upright and be even more successful. He missed the first three weeks of training camp after having an appendectomy on July 26, but is expected to be ready for Cincinnati’s opener Sept. 11. Reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd make up one of the best receiver groups in the league. Running back Joe Mixon also will benefit from the improved O-line. Defensive line and linebackers are solid. Kicker Evan McPherson was a fifth-round draft pick last year who became a clutch performer and household name in Cincinnati.

Weaknesses: The Bengals secondary could be inconsistent last season. Safety Jessie Bates III ended a lengthy dispute. Cincinnati has high hopes for their two top draft picks, safety Daxton Hill and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who is out currently with a core muscle injury.

Camp Development: Fourth-round draft pick Cordell Volson has been impressive. He won the starting left guard job away from second-year player Jackson Carman. Rookie Hill likely will start until Bates gets in to playing shape and even then Hill will play a lot.

Fantasy Player To Watch: WR Tee Higgins says he’s 100% healthy after having shoulder surgery following the Super Bowl. With defenses keying on Chase, Higgins will again be an important target for Burrow.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: +2,200. Over/under wins: 9.5.

Expectations: With a healthy Burrow and an overhauled offensive line that could open more lanes for running back Mixon — who has distinguished himself despite being limited by bad blocking in recent years — expectations are off the charts. The secondary is expected to be better with the addition of the two rookies.

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