Only a little over half way through the 2009 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers face their first truly pivotal contest of the year against the Cincinnati Bengals. When the NFL crafted the schedule, it certainly appears they didn’t expect this to be the year the Orange Empire Strikes Back. Otherwise, I doubt they would’ve blown through both Baltimore games and the season series against the Steelers by such an early date. Nevertheless, that’s where we find ourselves this week, facing the Bengals in a game which may very well decide the AFC’s North Division champion.
In their first meeting, the Steelers held a 20-9 lead in the fourth quarter. Then came a stunning collapse, mistakes on both sides of the ball contributing to an eventual 23-20 loss. Of course, the Steelers were without the services of Troy Polamalu in that game. Then again, they had the presence of Aaron Smith to help contain the scorching hot Cedric Benson. Not only is Smith not playing this Sunday, but his capable replacement Travis Kirschke is also out. Let’s hope Nick Eason and Ziggy Hood can keep the resurgent ground game of the Bengals under control or it’s going to be a long afternoon.
For more answers as to what we might expect this week, let’s talk with our old friend Mickey, lead blogger over at WhoDeyFans.
1. Last week, the Bengals whupped up on the Ravens 17-7 to sweep their season series. Where did this Cincy defense come from?
I think you are seeing a great Cincinnati defense for a few reasons. One, the Bengals have had pretty high draft picks for a while now and you are seeing that talent pay off with guys like Rivers, Maualuga, Joseph and Hall. Two, there have been some great free agent pickups that allow depth in the defense like Dhani Jones, Roy Williams and Tank Johnson. Lastly, I think Mike Zimmer is the best coordinator we have had here in a long time.
2. Can we expect to see anything different from your team this time around?
I think you will see more running. Especially to the right. With Smith being out and his backup questionable I think the Bengals overload that side of the line and run behind it. This can accomplish two things. One it brings Troy in and cheating to that side and that allows the receivers the opportunity for single coverage and two it allows Benson to hit the crease or roll outside with blockers in front. I fully expect Benson to break 100yds this weekend.
3. If the season were to end today, give me the team’s MVP.
Has to be Cedric Benson, he has acclimated well to the AFC North style of play and is the second leading rusher in the NFL.
4. Last year, two AFC North teams met in the AFC Championship game. Do you think history could repeat itself in 2009?
I assume you mean the Bengals and Steelers. That would be awesome. This would mean not only do the Bengals make the playoffs they manage to win a game or two. If this happens, no matter where the game is, I will be in attendance.
5. Give me a prediction.
I am going to go bold here. I predict that Benson has around 140 yds rushing. I also think the Bengals win by more than a touchdown. 28-20
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