By Matt Popchock

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The Steelers (0-1) need improvement across the board to hold their own next Monday night at Cincinnati against a Bengals (0-1) team picked by some to be the AFC flag-bearer in this year’s Super Bowl.

A step forward by rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones could make a big difference against Andy Dalton, a more reputable NFL passer than Tennessee’s Jake Locker. The Steelers’ pass rush against the Washington product was largely underwhelming, with LaMarr Woodley recording the team’s lone sack.

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Jason Worilds, with whom Jones battled for playing time in the preseason, took more defensive snaps in last Sunday’s 16-9 loss to the Titans at Heinz Field, but with two tackles for loss, Jones was more effective.

“On maybe the best play for the Steelers of the day, Jones burst into the backfield, easily squeezing between the tight end and tackle to meet Chris Johnson square on for one of the hardest hits of the game. It was a ‘welcome to the NFL’ moment for Jones—in a good way,” Bleacher Report Steelers featured columnist Chris G. writes. “Despite this, Jones needs to apply more pressure to the quarterback. He was able to get some push, but it wasn’t nearly enough for a guy that is expected to be the Steelers’ next great playmaker.

“Dalton can be disrupted when under pressure, and Jones will be a key part of that. He doesn’t need to get a sack, but he has to be in Dalton’s face all game.”

Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger not only needs to take better care of the ball, he also needs to spread it around a little more. Assuming the continued absence of Pro Bowl tight end Heath Miller, the Steelers will have to rely upon backup David Paulson, who wasn’t targeted at all in that Week 1 contest.

Paulson, the 24-year-old Oregon alumnus, had a nice preseason, with eight catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, but the only catch by a Steelers tight end against Tennessee was an 11-yarder from Big Ben to David Johnson.

For further perspective, the Steelers went to their running backs more than their tight ends; LaRod Stephens-Howling and Isaac Redman combined for 18 receiving yards on two catches apiece.

“With the lack of a big target, Paulson needs to fill the void, particularly in short-yardage situations. He needs to use his size and wide catching radius when the Steelers do not have much space to work with. He doesn’t need to go out and have five or six receptions, but making two or three to keep the chains moving would certainly be a start,” Chris G. adds. “Without a healthy running back who is good at catching the ball out of the backfield, the Steelers are down to just their receivers to make plays.”

Click here to read the full post by Chris G.

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To bolster their backfield, the Steelers quickly re-signed Jonathan Dwyer, their leading rusher from 2012, after surprisingly cutting him before the start of the regular season.

The high-water mark of Dwyer’s 2012 campaign was a 122-yard effort in a prime-time victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium–a game the Steelers won without center Maurkice Pouncey.

With rookie Le’Veon Bell reportedly out longer than expected with his midfoot injury, this couldn’t be a much better time for another big night for Dwyer on the big stage.

The Steelers combined for just 32 yards on the ground against the Titans, the second-worst rushing output by any NFL squad in Week 1. As 93.7 The Fan’s Colin Dunlap recently noted, they have not had a player run for more than 56 yards in their past nine games.

The Bengals allowed 81 total rushing yards to the Bears in a 24-21 Week 1 loss at Soldier Field, including 50 and a third-quarter touchdown by Matt Forte.


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