The Steelers are visiting the Bengals on Monday Night in an AFC North showdown with both teams looking to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start. Teams that start the season 0-2 have made the playoffs just 11.6 percent of the time.
In Week 1, the Bengals let an 11-point 3rd quarter lead slip away as the Bears scored 14 unanswered points to escape with a 24-21 win. The Steelers offense was shut out for basically the entire game before finally finding the end-zone with 1:23 left in the 4th quarter. The Steelers fell in that one 16-9 totaling 194 yards of offense, not very good.
The major storyline in this one is James Harrison switching sides from the Steelers where he had been for 10 seasons, to the Bengals. You can bet Harrison will be fired up to stick it to his former team in this one.
Both teams bring explosive passing attacks to the table, but suspect rushing attacks. Besides 2 turnovers last week, Andy Dalton was impressive finishing 26/33 for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns. AJ Green proved why he is a top 3 receiver in the league catching 9 balls for 162 yards and both Cincinnati touchdowns. On 21 running plays, the Bengals totaled 63 yards. That’s pretty bad, but not as bad as the Steelers were.
When Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t being sacked 5 times in week 1, he completed 21/33 passes for 191 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders caught a combined 12 passes for 128 yards. Other than that, the Steelers have major problems with the rushing attack and the offensive line. Starting center Maurkice Pouncey is done for the season with a torn ACL leaving Pittsburgh’s offensive line without its leader. The Steelers ran the ball 15 times for a total of 31 yards while losing LaRod Stephens Howling for the season with a torn ACL. That means Isaac Redmond will be the Steelers starting running back in this game. Redmond was awful last week, and isn’t a major playmaker what-so-ever.
The Steelers offense has way too many problems right now. When your offensive line is that suspect, and you have no rushing attack, that just spells disaster for Pittsburgh. The Bengals offense is much more stable led by AJ Green and tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham. The edge goes to Cincinnati.
The Steelers didn’t just lose major offensive pieces in week 1, the team also lost the captain of the defense Larry Foote who is likely done for the season after rupturing his biceps.
The secondary is the strength of the defense led by Troy Polumalu who was one of the few bright spots for the Steelers last week. Ryan Clark, and Ike Taylor round out the Steelers talented defensive backfield. LaMar Woodley and Lawrence Timmons lead the linebacking core, but are going to be asked to step up big time with no Foote, or James Harrison.
The Bengals defense is what makes them serious contenders in the AFC. Geno Atkins is poised for a monster game taking serious advantage of a bad Steelers offensive line. James Harrison will also be in the backfield a lot facing his former team. The one question mark on the defense is Terrence Newman who’s a bit inconsistent and something the Steelers will definitely try to exploit.
The Bengals defense bended and broke against Jay Cutler last week. But Cincinnati’s defense is fully healthy and has a very favorable matchup with the Steeler’s offense. The edge on defense goes to the Bengals.
Kicker: Mike Nugent vs. Shaun Suisham
Punter: Kevin Huber vs. Zoltan Mesko
Return Man: Brandon Tate vs. Markus Wheaton
Kick returns are becoming at thing of the past in the NFL, so don’t expect either Brandon Tate or Markus Wheaton to make much of an impact in that area.
A former 2nd-round bust of the Jets, Mike Nugent has made a nice career for himself with the Bengals kicking at an 85 percent clip over the past 2-years. Shaun Suisham is a solid kicker, but it’s unclear how many opportunities he will get based on how anemic the Steelers offense is.
Former Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko is now in Pittsburgh and the Steelers will be relying heavily on him to change field position. Kevin Huber was very impressive in week 1 averaging 48 yards per punt last week against Chicago.
Don’t expect special teams to make much of a difference in this one, but with Kevin Huber having a stronger leg than Zoltan Mesko, the edge in this one once again goes to the Bengals.
The Bengals are the team that is going to want this game more, the team with greater expectations than the Steelers. That’s why the Bengals even up the teams record at 1-1 and keep the teams hopes for a division title alive.
Bengals 21 Steelers 13