The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals twice last season by a combined score of 65-20. It was the first time they had lost to the Bengals twice in a row since 2013, at all, let alone twice in one season, which last occurred in 2009.
Reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt was not on the field for their first meeting last season, a 24-10 affair in week three, but he was out there, albeit compromised playing through an injury that caused him to miss the previous week, for the second round, in which they were beaten by 31 points in a game that could have put them in a virtual tie for second place in the division at the time, behind the Baltimore Ravens, who had just to tank at the end of the year.
In spite of the poor game that they played, however, Watt still values the tape for what it is and what he can learn from it, and is not taking the approach of just moving past it. “I mean, it’s good film. It’s really good film. Anytime you have film of yourself against that team, whether the pieces have changed, the play callers are still the same”, he told reporters on Friday, via the team’s website.
“Obviously, you always continue to watch film of yourself of where you were and where you want to be”, he added. “Obviously, the performance is unacceptable, but there’s also some good things that we can take away to build from that game”.
In Watt’s case, there is a substantial difference between last year’s tape against the Bengals and this year’s, not simply because he was playing injured at the time, but more importantly, because they have a new right tackle in La’el Collins, although the offensive coordinator, play caller, and offensive line coach all remain the same.
Watt and Collins have never faced off before. The last time, and only time since Watt has been in the NFL, that the Steelers and Collins’ former team, the Dallas Cowboys, played one another was in 2020. Collins was on the Reserve/Injured List all season due to a hip injury.
The new Bengals right tackle talked to reporters recently about the prospects of facing Watt, one of the greatest pass rushers in the game today. “He’s a hell of a player. He’s definitely established himself and his name as one of the best pass rushers in the league”, Collins said, “so it’ll be a great matchup. I’m excited about it. For me, nothing changes, the approach is the same, just as every week”.
Watt has 7.5 career sacks against the Bengals in nine games played. In spite of the fact that he recorded an NFL-record 22.5 last season, none came against Cincinnati, so he’ll be looking to jumpstart his 2022 total by making up some lost ground against the defending AFC North champions and their new-look offensive line. And he’ll be learning from last year’s tape to do it.