I know it’s crazy, but these aren’t the same old Bungles we’re used to seeing year in and year out. In the past, you could always count on the Bengals to bungle their way out of a game. Bad penalties, fumbles, picks, blown coverage…whatever the recipe for disaster, the Bengals have cooked it up playing against the Steelers. Roethlisberger is 11 for 15 against the Bengals, and the Steelers will be looking to make up for a terrible blown game last week against the Ravens, but I wouldn’t count on the Bengals making it easy this time.
This isn’t the same Bengals team we’re used to. If the Steelers aren’t prepared, the Bengals will look to raise a lot of eye-brows around the NFL.
My dad always used to joke that the Steelers have to play the Browns six times year. Paul Brown founded the Browns (2 games), moved them to Baltimore (2 games), and then went to Cinci and founded the Bengals (2 more games). That makes six games playing the Browns per year, and game three, the Bengals, will prove to be a game that not only means more than usual, but will be much harder to win than usual.
This Sunday’s game is in Cinci against a Bengals team that has found solace in their #1 ranked defense against the run and their Offensive Line that has held Andy Dalton to just 12 sacks on the season. #1 in the AFC North is on the line and if the Steelers can pull out a win against this surprising Bengals team, they’ll be neck and neck with the Ravens for at least a couple of weeks. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how important it is that the Steelers start winning and the Ravens/Bengals start losing now that the Ravens swept the series with the Steelers. Unfortunately for the Steelers, this Bengals game is going to be much harder than we (the fans) originally anticipated.
“They’re still the Bungles.” That’s what I always say after I see the Bengals play. I really haven’t had the luxury of doing so thus far this season. The Bengals have now won five straight games and will look to make a statement in Cinci against a well-known team that is always good. You want to know why people always get up to play the Steelers? It’s because it means something when they beat us. This is not going to be a walk in the park (no week is in the NFL), and if the Steelers aren’t taking this game seriously they will be surprised.
Andy Dalton is more than capable of carving up our questionable secondary, and AJ is a big-time play maker at Wide Receiver. This is starting to become a team to beat and I must admit that I’m a little concerned. Dalton has been around 300 yards passing four times this season and Cedric Benson has found some new life rushing for over 100 yards a couple of times. They’ve had big offensive games, and a stellar run defense thus far. Statistically, this is a team to take seriously. They’ve got something to prove, and they probably hate the Steelers more than the Steelers hate them.
Schedule-wise the Bengals haven’t played many people worth writing home about. They did beat the Bills, who have been exceptional at times this season, and lost to the only other team of note, the surging 49ers. Otherwise their last four games have consisted of beating the Jags, Seahawks, Titans, and Colts. We said the same thing about the Steelers: The Bengals will need to play and beat a team that can help to define their worth as a playoff prospect. That game for the Bengals is this week against the Steelers, and is precisely why I’m a little weary.
I thought the Steelers’ defining game was against the Patriots, but maybe it’s this week (every week?). If the Steelers lose Sunday, backing in to the playoffs with multiple losses to division rivals will be improbable at best.
Things to Looks For
Big Ben: Roethlisberger has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL as this moment. Of course, Tebow has been sacked like 15 times in 3 games, so he should be catching up soon. Like Tebow, Roethlisberger prayed for an offensive line and got his wish when Max Starks rejoined the team at Left Tackle. The O Line has been much better since then, but it is still a concern, particularly when it comes to protecting the Steelers’ franchise QB. Ben has been able to stay healthy, and has had some big games recently, but without Hines and Sanders, Ben’s weapons are depleting. The Steelers have to be better in the Red Zone if they want to beat the Bengals this week. Look for Roethlisberger to have another one of those big weeks on the TD side. I’m thinking we’ll see a lot of passing again due to the Bengals stout run defense.
Mike Wallace: Visions of a 2,000 yard season are slowly disappearing, though Wallace’s performance thus far is nothing to hang his head about. Mike has been fantastic all season and is becoming a better rout runner week in and week out. However, that deadly deep ball has been mysteriously missing the last couple of weeks. I would love to see a few more shots down field than we’ve been seeing, though I can’t say I’m surprised that I’ve been disappointed with our offensive game-plan more than a few times this season. Look for a renewed dedication to getting the ball in to Wallace’s hands against the Bungles.
LaMarr Woodley: Woodley is out again this week, as Ed Bouchette reported on Twitter He was seen standing on the sidelines at practice yesterday. Our pass rush has not been the same since one of either the right or left side has been inconsistent. James Harrison brought back a spark last week, but was without his partner in crime who has been averaging a little under 2 sacks a game for a while now. Look to Woodley’s side to see how whoever is there is doing applying pressure on Dalton. Usually the Steelers’ MO is to make a rookie QB’s life a total nightmare. Dalton probably doesn’t feel he has much to worry about as the Steelers are last in the NFL in turnovers and turnover differential. This needs to change, and what better week for the Steelers to pick up a couple of INT’s than this week?
Ike Taylor: …can’t cover everyone. Look to Ike’s opposite side to see what’s going on with Willy Gay and Keenan Lewis. The Bengals have several WRs who can come up with explosive plays, and Gay and Lewis are going to have to do a better job in coverage than last week.
Antonio Brown: Just a couple of weeks ago, Brown was the WR with the most yards in the NFL without a touchdown. He finally found the end zone against the Patriots and will be looking to continue growing as a WR on the Steelers’ depth chart. Antonio just keeps coming up with bigger games, look for him to try and find that paint again this week.
Rashard Mendenhall: …may not be the greatest fantasy play this week. Or, you know, any week. The offensive line has been a problem all season and it has made it nearly impossible for any RB to find success in Pittsburgh. Mendy is healthy, and has looked very good at times this season. This week, however, will not be his week. Look for Mendy to be stopped a couple of times on the first drive, and then look for Bruce Arians to completely abandon the run all together after the first series. I sometimes wonder if sticking with the run longer would make a big difference in Mendy’s ability to find a rhythm, but I fear I will never know cause I’ll never see Arians stick with it long enough to find out.
This may not feel like a big week compared to Brady week or Ravens week, but this is every bit as important a game as those were. The Bengals are a force to be reckoned with and will not go gentle in to that good night. #1 in the AFC is at stake. It’s going to be a battle.
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