These two teams haven’t met in some time. The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers last played on a Monday night in Week 2. That night, the Bengals defeated the Steelers 20-10. Not much has changed for these teams since that night. The Bengals are pointing upward, while the Steelers’ stock is plummeting.
This game marks the first time since 1988 that the Bengals are favored to win in Pittsburgh. It’s quite a telling fact. The Steelers are likely to finish the season without a playoff berth for the second year in a row; Pittsburgh hasn’t done that since 2000. Furthermore, the Steelers are in danger of finishing the season below .500 for the first time since 2003.
Things have certainly changed. The Bengals now rule the Steelers.
Match-ups to watch:
Steelers CB Ike Taylor vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green
Ike Taylor has usually gotten the best of A.J. Green since he entered the league, but this game could be a change in the script. Taylor is starting to play of his age. Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson dismantled Taylor. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Green put up big numbers versus Taylor.
Bengals DE Michael Johnson vs. Steelers LT Kelvin Beachum
Kelvin Beachum was the Steelers’ starting left tackle from Week 4-13; but, he got injured against the Ravens two weeks ago, and Mike Adams stepped in for him. Adams played well in place of Beachum, but Beachum will be the starter once again, this week.
Beachum has played decently when pass blocking. Michael Johnson may not have many sacks racked up this season, but he does get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Johnson is also a fantastic run defender. On the other hand, Beachum does not play very well in run-blocking situations. This match-up could make or break the Steelers’ running success.
Bengals’ keys to victory:
1. Put Big Ben on his back
Defensive ends, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, must get to Ben Roethlisberger. Both Dunlap and Johnson have favorable match-ups. The Steelers’ receivers outmatch the Bengals’ secondary, making the effective pass rushing even more important for the Bengals.
2. Productive run game
The Steelers’ run defense is a shell of its former self. Running back Giovani Bernard has the ability to put up big numbers against the Steelers. Of course the Bengals do not need to produce a back-breaking number of rushing yards, but if they can break a couple of big gainers, it will take some pressure off quarterback Andy Dalton.
Steelers’ keys to Victory:
1. Ben Roethlisberger has to come through
Who would have known the Steelers defense would be playing this badly? The Steelers’ run game is still a work in progress, to say the very least. Ben Roethlisberger is one of the few reliable players left in Pittsburgh. Every game for the Steelers hinges on the play of Roethlisberger. Unfortunately, usually, Roehtlisberger has to play without flaw in order for the Steelers to be victorious. Unless Big Ben plays perfectly, the Steelers very likely will not win this football game.