Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#485 Cincinnati Bengals vs.
#486 Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, September 26, 2021 at 1:00pm EDT
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Written by Jordy

The AFC North showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals gets thrown into the early slate of Sunday games. Heinz Field will serve as the stage for what the Steelers hope to be a bounce-back performance after dropping their home opener to the Las Vegas Raiders. Meanwhile, the Bengals allowed themselves to come out on the losing end of a run-in with the Chicago Bears and the impromptu debut of rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

Should the Bengals be worried about Burrow?

Former No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow has looked anything but extraordinary under center for the Cincinnati Bengals. That’s more of a dig at his reality more so than his potential as a quarterback. The Bengals’ offensive line is a mess right now, and Burrow is trying to wear the Superman cape in a situation where it isn’t possible.

This isn’t LSU.

If he didn’t learn that lesson last week, he might learn it this week against a Steelers defense capable of wreaking havoc up front. Burrow is the most sacked quarterback in the league right now on average, along with New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. We all saw last week what happened when Wilson tried to be Superman—four interceptions and a loss to the New England Patriots. Burrow threw three picks and got beat by the Chicago Bears.

The Bengals obviously aren’t going to fix their offensive line problems overnight, but Burrow needs to do a better job of getting the ball out quicker. He also needs to understand that it’s completely okay to give up on a play when he goes through his progressions and nothing is there. Sometimes it’s the bad throws you don’t make that win football games.

The Bengals' defense has quietly been really good. They’re only allowing an average 304.5 total yards per game, and they’re getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If they can consistently get pressure on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they should be able to generate turnovers. No one has played more hero ball than “Big Ben” over the course of his career.

The Bengals could be short an offensive playmaker if wide receiver Tee Higgins (shoulder) can't go on Sunday. Offensive guard Xavier Su’a-Filo is also questionable to play against the Steelers.

What happened to the Steelers defense?

The Steelers defense got carved up like a Halloween pumpkin by Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr last week. You don’t need me to remind you if you witnessed him slinging the ball all over Heinz Field for 382 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Oh yeah, and he completed 75.7 percent of his passes.

As expected, everyone is pointing the fingers at Pittsburgh’s defense on a day where Carr hosted an air parade. But that performance had more to do about what Oakland did right than what the Steelers did wrong. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other guy for a job well done.

They’ll have as good of a chance as any to get back on track against the horror show that is the Bengals’ offensive line with Joe Burrow under center. If the Steelers defense struggles to get pressure up front on Sunday, then you can start pressing the panic button. I’m making that statement despite all of the injuries—and there are a lot of them. Devin Bush recently returned to practice, but both T.J. Watt and Joe Haden have been limited. Watt is now expected to miss this game due to a groin injury.

This Steelers team will only go as far as the defense can take it. Ben Roethlisberger is no spring chicken in football years, and the patchwork offensive line is making it hard for the team to move the ball on the ground. They currently have the worst rushing offense in the league heading into a game against a grossly underrated Cincinnati defense.

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The offensive line problems and wild turnover margin for the Bengals concern me more than anything going on in Pittsburgh right now. No, Roethlisberger isn’t the same quarterback from years’ past, but he’s still a savvy veteran capable of making the best out of a bad situation. This isn’t the first time he’s played in the NFL behind a struggling offensive line.

I can’t say the same for Burrow, who could be left on an island to fend for himself in the offensive backfield against a Steelers defense that’s still formidable. It’s very telling for a team with so many weapons at the skilled positions to be averaging the fifth-least passing yards per game. There hasn’t been enough time for Burrow to get his feet set and make all of the big throws everyone knows he’s capable of making.

The Steelers haven’t consistently generated pressure, but they’ve also faced a pair of potentially elite quarterbacks in Josh Allen and Derek Carr. Burrow clearly isn’t on that level yet in only his second year of playing. So I’m expecting the Steelers to unleash defensively and feast on sacks.

Roethlisberger isn’t going to turn the Steelers offense into a machine overnight, especially against a Bengals team with a top-10 defense. Yards will be hard to come by, and there are going to be a lot of stalled drives in this one. It won’t look pretty by any stretch, but I’m expecting the Steelers to pull out the win with a little toughness and clutch field goal kicking. I’m laying the points.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers (-3)

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This game has the makings of one of those adrenaline-fueled, gritty AFC North rivalry matchups. The Bengals offensive line is an accident waiting to happen right now. It’s nothing I’d want my young quarterback subjected to playing behind, especially when he’s already coming off a season-ending ACL injury. They won’t be able to save him from a powerful Steelers defensive front that stifled Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.

However, on the other side, Pittsburgh has a one-dimensional offense that can’t run the ball. It’ll be a tough afternoon for Ben Roethlisberger throwing into the teeth of a Cincinnati defense ranked top-10 against the pass. Give me the under in this one.

Prediction: Under (43)
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Written By Jordy McElroy , "Jordy"

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast, and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he's a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you'd have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY, and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from -- just rolling hills, green valleys, and all the Sun Drop you can drink.