Everyone is talking about the Cincinnati Bengals having to match up against T.J. Watt and rightfully so. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year was an unstoppable force against Joe Burrow’s offense in Week 1 and facing him is a huge test for the Bengals.
But let’s not overlook the other premium pass rusher in this game. Because I can assure you the Pittsburgh Steelers can’t be excited about Kenny Pickett having to face Trey Hendrickson.
The Steelers’ pass protection is somewhat underrated as they allow the 7th lowest pressure rate, per Pro Football Reference. But the Bengals’ edge rusher is a mismatch for left tackle Dan Moore Jr.
Through nine games this season, Moore Jr. has allowed 23 QB Pressures (23rd-most among offensive tackles). In “true pass sets,” he ranks 69th in the NFL in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking grade.
It will be key for the Bengals to force the Steelers into passing situations, which will require quality run defense and getting ahead on the scoreboard. Najee Harris is coming off a solid performance against the New Orleans Saints in which he totaled 90 yards.
Cincinnati knows that if they force Pickett to win the game by throwing the football, Pittsburgh will be in trouble. The rookie quarterback is near the bottom of the league when under pressure. His impatience in the pocket could lead to some game-costing mistakes.
That’s easier said than done, of course. But Hendrickson is good enough to change the game the way Watt does for the Steelers. They might not be in the same tier since T.J. is among the league’s best players, but Hendrickson’s production this season is undeniable.
The Bengals’ defensive star boasts the third-best pass-rushing player at his position by PFF and has 32 total pressures this season. His 10 QB hits are the seventh most in the NFL and has the fourth-highest pass-rush win rate as measured by ESPN.
Don’t be surprised if Hendrickson ends up having a better game than Watt on Sunday. That’s how good he’s been this season.
Featured image via Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports