That right there is why last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins was simultaneously the greatest and the worst game you’re going to see this season. Shockingly, it was the third highest rated Monday Nighter of the year which tells me either Steeler Nation is more powerful than I thought or there are a lot of football fans who like good, old-fashioned, mud and rain slop ball. Fallout from the Sod Bowl continues in all quarters, as the Steeler players weigh in favor of keeping the field as is, while the national media waggle their figurative fingers at our fair city and say, “Shame! Shame!”
Of course, there’s still some football to be played on the soupy tundra of Heinz Field. Why, there’s a game this Sunday night as a matter of fact. The Cincinnati Bengals have cleared it with their parole officers and are free to make their annual pilgrimage to Pittsburgh to wrap up our yearly two game set.
Pittsburgh Defense vs. Cincinnati Offense
The Cincinnati offense we’ll see this week is light years better than the one we limited to 13 points in our first meeting. The Bengals have been lighting up the scoreboard in recent weeks, dropping a couple of 35s on the opposition in consecutive weeks. Gone is the team from earlier this season that was having all kinds of problems scoring.
Why the sudden change? Well, they got two of their key players back. RB Rudi Johnson has finally gotten healthy and his threat in the running game has really opened up things for Carson Palmer. The other key component was WR and habitual lawbreaker Chris Henry coming back from being put in NFL mandated time out.
Obviously, having Ocho Cinco and TJ Housyourdaddy at wide out should be enough to put plenty of points on the board but don’t think Chad Johnson exploding for 3 TDs last week was just good timing. Having a dangerous third/slot receiver like Henry out there really forces secondaries to adjust their coverage, leading to blown assignments or favorable matchups for the Big Two.
Let’s also not forget that in the first game, Cincinnati might’ve been able to pull out a win if head coach Marvin Lewis hadn’t forgotten to bring his balls to the stadium that day. On two occasions they were inside the Steelers’ red zone and both times they settled for field goals. One of those was a fourth and 1 inside the 10 which was a particularly wussy call for a team that desperately needed a win to stay in contention. We can argue about the Patriots “running up the score” and all but the fact is the successful NFL teams are the most aggressive NFL teams.
Ironically, one of the best things that could happen to the Steelers would be for field conditions to be, um, less than ideal. A sloppy, beaten-up field would greatly limit the speed game Cincinnati likes to play and make it far easier for our cornerbacks to cover. Failing that, it’ll be up to Ike Taylor, Deshea Townshend, and Bryant McFadden to play yet another strong game. Our secondary has played extremely well this year and even though we’ll once again be without FS Troy Polamalu, I expect another outstanding effort from them.
Pittsburgh Offense vs. Cincinnatti Defense
I could easily cut and paste what I’ve written the past three weeks here but because you, the loyal reader, deserve the very best, I’ll instead just reiterate in my own inimitable style. Once again, we’re playing a pretty awful defense. Of course, we’ve played terrible defenses the past two games and managed to score a grand total of one touchdown in the last eight quarters. That’s not going to get the job done this week.
The Bengals have struggled in pretty much every area of defense this season. Their opponents are averaging 25 points, 120 rushing yards, and a whopping 245 passing yards per game against them. These are atrocious numbers, even by their lowly standards. Cincinnati corners have struggled mightily this year and they’re getting absolutely no help from a terrible linebacking corp which is full of three-toed sloths who can’t help out on slot WR’s, RB’s or TE’s. If you have TE Heath Miller on your fantasy team, this would be the week to start him with confidence.
The Bengals do have 18 sacks this year so expect them to bring the pressure on QB Ben Roethlisberger. Once again, it’ll be interesting to see if our swiss cheese line can keep him upright for more than two plays in a row. LT Marvel Smith very likely won’t play so we’ll get another chance to see if Max Starks can shore things up. If he plays well, Mike Tomlin should think about shuffling things around a bit when Smith is ready to come back.
The Steelers will also be without WR Santonio Holmes, who is still nursing a high ankle sprain. I haven’t heard anything so I’m guessing Nate Washington will once again start and they’ll use Cedric Wilson as the third down/slot receiver. Maybe Willie Reid will see some playing time as well, which would be nice because he’s shown a willingness to go over the middle that, as noted, is one area the Bengals have some glaring problems.
I expect a dogfight as Cincinnati isn’t totally out of the playoff picture and will be up for this game like no other game this season. My only regret is being the road team, the Bengals will be dressed in traveling whites instead of the swank Sunkist colored orange uniforms they wore last week. We all know they’re a bunch of criminals but there’s something humorous about seeing them play in what appear to be prison jumpsuits.
Tags: AFC North Bengals Carson Palmer Chad Cincinnati Criminals Heinz Heinz Field Holmes Ike Taylor Johnson Lewis Ocho Cinco Palmer Pittsburgh Roethlisberger Sod Sod Bowl Starks Steelers Taylor Tj Tomlin