On Sunday the 9-3 Steelers welcome the 2-10 Bengals to Heinz Field for another AFC North showdown. On paper, this game shouldn’t be competitive at all. The Bengals have lost nine in a row, they appear to find new ways to lose every week, and there is now clamoring around the city of Cincinnati to get rid of Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer and start over fresh for next season. In short, it seems like their team is in deep turmoil and winning any game at this point, let alone one in Pittsburgh, seems as unlikely as Leisure Suit Lou paying more than $20 for a new suit.
However, we all know that games are played in our TVs, not on paper.
Call it a trap game, a let down game, a tough division battle, anything you want, just know that the Steelers better come focused in order to win this one. I can remember years that the Bengals went 3-13, and of course one of those wins were against the powerful Steelers. Painful to say the least.
A quick scan of the Bengal roster and it appears that they have talent at all of the skill positions. Carson Palmer has over 3000 yards and 20 TDs, and is throwing to two dangerous receivers. T.O. is having a Pro-Bowl caliber season, and is leading his team with 71 receptions and 961 yards to go along with 9 TDs. In their first matchup, he torched the Steeler secondary for 141 yards and 2 TDs. He was basically ALL of Cincy’s offense in that game and single-handedly kept the Bengals close. Taylor, McFadden, and the other Steeler DBs are going to have their hands full again, but I think that if you shut down T.O. the Bengal’s offense will fold. Ochocinco is still having a decent season (59 rec 724 yds) but he doesn’t appear to be the threat he used to be before T.O.s arrival.
Cedric Benson is averaging a decent 3.5 yards per carry this season, but seriously, nobody has run on the Steelers all year long, they’re not going to start now. That’s all I’ve got to say about the Bengals running game for this one…
Two players that do get my Leisure Suit in a bunch are Jordan Shipley and Bernard Scott. The Steelers always seem to have trouble with the dink and dunk style of the short passing game (ala Tom Brady…), and that is the exact scheme the Shipley excels at. Short crossing routes and dump offs could kill the Steelers, but I think a few good (LEGAL) shots by the LBs will make him think twice about going through their territory. What can Bernard Scott do to us you might ask? Well, in the last 5 games he is averaging close to 30 yards per kickoff return. And tell the truth, every time the Steelers kick off, everybody still holds their breathe until the runner is down. Right? We all remember his 96 yd return in last year’s 18-12 loss, right? Well, the special teams are playing better this season, but they still make me nervous. Just limit his returns and let the Defense do their job, and we’ll all be happy.
On defense, the Bengals really don’t scare anybody this season. Last year, they were getting sacks in bunches, and turnovers like crazy. Not so much this season. They have solid DBs in Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, but with Joseph slowed by an injury I think Ward and Wallace should have decent games. Ben will take at least a couple shots deep to Wallace to test Joseph’s ankle, which I think should result in at least one TD of at least 40 yards. Ward and emerging rookie Emmanuel Sanders should also get their opportunities in the medium passing game.
However, with Ben beat up a little (nothing new there) this game should be won on the strength of Rashard Mendenhall’s legs. Run him, run him again, then run him some more. After that, run Redman a few times, then back to Mendenhall. Get my point yet? The Steelers should be able to run on the Bengals, and not only will that eat up the clock, but will also keep Ben from getting hit behind yet another patchwork O-line.
Will the Bengals keep it close? Sure, it’s an AFC North Battle and most games in this division come down to the wire. Will they upset the Steelers and throw wrench in their playoff plans? One word…
Steelers D comes to play and shuts down T.O. and exposes Palmer as the ‘adequate at best’ QB that he is.
Steelers win 17-7.