The Pittsburgh Steelers hope to erase a couple of ugly performances in Sunday’s AFC North divisional showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals. They gave up 41 points in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last week after drawing even with the winless Detroit Lions in their previous outing. At the very least, they managed to cover as dogs against the Chargers. Meanwhile, the Bengals cruised to covering their 2.5 points as favorites against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Steelers desperately searching for a winThe Steelers don’t need me to tell them how important a win would be in this game. Legendary quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t choose to stick around for another year so the team could ride the coattails of mediocrity.
No, he was hoping to compete.
The sad thing is the AFC is as wide open as it’s ever been right now, and the Steelers still look like they don’t belong. They couldn’t even put away the winless Detroit Lions at Heinz Field, and then their defense went up in flames like my uncle’s fried Thanksgiving turkey against the Chargers.
Imagine if they get swept by the Bengals. Whew, that would be a tough pill to swallow for Roethlisberger and company.
Big Ben showed up on the injury report, but he isn’t expected to miss Sunday’s game.
The run game for the Steelers has been non-existent all season, but they probably weren’t going to find many running lanes against the Bengals’ defensive front anyways. Opponents are only averaging 98 yards per game on the ground against them.
The real Achilles heel for the Bengals is their defensive backfield. That’s the one area where Roethlisberger can exploit with his young receivers and an every-down player like Najee Harris at running back.
But the Steelers have to be better on defense.
They have to wreck the game with sacks and possibly even turnovers. They can’t let Joe Burrow just sit back in the pocket with little to no pressure. There’s enough talent on the outside at receiver for him to carve them up like Justin Herbert and the Chargers.
TJ Watt and Joe Haden were named as limited participants in practice this week. The Steelers desperately need both on the field for this game. Haden is out but Watt is expected to play along with star safety Mikah Fitzpatrick.
Bengals looking to sweep the SteelersThere’s no better way of proving you’re no longer the little brother team in a division than by sweeping big brother in a season. The Bengals are on the verge of accomplishing such a feat on Sunday.
They marched into Pittsburgh in Week 3 and walked all over the Steelers’ hospitality by posting a 24-10 victory. We’ll see if they can put together a little déjà vu in front of Pittsburgh fans in this matchup.
Joe Mixon should run wild for the Bengals against a Steelers defense allowing an average of 174.7 rushing yards in their last three outings. The defensive front is putting heat on opposing quarterbacks, but they aren’t stopping opposing rushing attacks. Things are too leaky up front for the Bengals not to at least dabble in a little smash-mouth football.
If they’re successful, it could only mean good things whenever quarterback Joe Burrow is ready to start bombing away to his favorite receiving target, Ja’Marr Chase.
But it’s up to the defense to make sure the legend stays in the past.
They can’t allow the old gunslinger, Ben Roethlisberger, to breathe life into the Steelers offense with his arm. That defensive secondary alone is enough to have Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo sweating bullets.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Bengals looked great against the Raiders last week, but that doesn’t automatically erase the previous two weeks that came before that performance. We can’t act like the New York Jets’ backup quarterback, Mike White, wasn’t throwing to everyone on the roster and in the parking lot against that Bengals defense in Cincy.
And it’s impossible to forget the 41-17 shellacking running back Nick Chubb and the Cleveland Browns put on them as well.
Sure, the Steelers have looked a bit sluggish in games, but the Bengals have looked equally as shaky at times. It’s still an ascending team with pitfalls, particularly on the backend of the defense. I’m not writing off that old gunslinger, Ben Roethlisberger, in this matchup.
The Steelers need this game to avoid getting swept by the Bengals in the head-to-head meetings and falling to 5-5-1 on the season.
They’ll put stress on the Bengals defensively by feeding Najee Harris in the passing game before going over the top to Diontae Johnson for the real damage downfield. I’m also expecting tight end Pat Freiermuth to continue to have an impact in the red zone against a Bengals defense allowing a 60 percent touchdown conversion rate in such situations.
Give me the points on Sunday.
Full-Game Total Pick
These AFC North divisional games have a tendency of looking ugly. I’m not saying the two teams won’t figure out a way to move the ball down the field. But I’m expecting more drives to end in field goals than touchdowns. It’ll be another one of those gritty games that don’t make any sense until the big plays start coming later. The Steelers have the defensive pass rush that can get quarterback Joe Burrow off his game, and Ben Roethlisberger will be handcuffed to the passing attack with the Steelers’ run game relatively nonexistent. Give me the under in this one.