The Bengals are definitely up there with the Bills as the surprise team of the season. Led by rookie Andy Dalton out of TCU, the Bengals are 6-2 and tied with the Ravens for the lead in the division. This isn’t the type of game many people envisioned at the start of the year. A free victory for the Steelers is what many fans thought, but the Steelers are going to need to stay focused if they want to win. After a devastating loss against the Ravens, are the Steelers going to have their minds on the Bengals?
The Steelers absolutely let a golden opportunity slip away last week at home against the Ravens. They seemed to wrap things up after a touchdown to take a 4-point lead with five minutes remaining. But Joe Flacco manufactured a picture perfect 2-minute drill to snatch the victory from the Steelers. So it’s obvious that the big question in this one is if the Steelers are going to be focused. We all know what they are capable of on the field. They have an elite defense, with an above average offense. Their offense didn’t look too bad against the Ravens actually, especially in the second half. The Steelers utilized a no-huddle attack, and it had the Ravens on their heels. If it wasn’t for a Terrell Suggs interception deep in Ravens territory, I am probably talking about a Steelers win here. The pass by Big Ben was inexcusable, and was the turning point in that one. The Steelers for the most part, though, were in a groove with the no-huddle. The offense has been pass happy lately, the running game has failed to get on track, so they have been forced to dish the ball. It’s not often you find a Steelers team with a top-10 passing attack (8th), with a ground game ranked 18th in the league. The Bengals actually bring a stout 4th ranked defense to Sunday with them. Only allowing 300 yards total per game and 17 points a game. The problem I have with the Bengals is that they haven’t exactly played any juggernaut offenses yet. Offensively challenged teams like the Jaguars and Colts managed to put a decent amount of points up. The best offense the Bengals have played is the Bills, and still some people have the verdict out on them.
The defense for the Steelers last week failed to get at Joe Flacco. Flacco had an abundance of time to sit in the pocket and find receivers. The main problem for the Steelers was getting off the field on 3rd down. It seemed the Ravens converted every critical 3rd down. Pittsburgh was without LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior, two big playmakers. All indications say that Woodley will be out, and Farrior will be back. Getting just one back will give a big boost to their defense. The Steelers still rank 3rd in the terms of total defense, only surrendering 184 yards a game. The Bengals haven’t played against any elite offenses and in my opinion, not many elite defenses. The only significant defensive test that had was against the 49ers. In that game, the Bengals only managed to put up eight points. This will be quarterback Andy Dalton’s biggest test yet in the NFL. Dalton has held his own so far, passing for 1,696 yards with 12 TDs and 7 INTs.
Steelers vs. Bengals Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Pittsburgh Steelers -3
@Cincinnati Bengals +3
Over 41.5 (-110)
Steelers vs. Bengals Pick:
A win for the Bengals would send a message throughout the NFL, a message that simply says that they are for real. They need to get past the Steelers first, though; a hungry mad Steelers team at that. Like I said, this will be the Bengals biggest test of the year, and I feel Dick Lebeau has some tricks up his sleeves for rookie Andy Dalton. After the defense let the Ravens march down the field last week, I think they come back with a vengeance. I think in most spots, a team wouldn’t be too focused for this game, but the Steelers are veteran squad that understands how important this game is. Before we crown the Bengals a good team, they need to beat a highly rated team, which I don’t see them doing yet. It will be an excellent learning opportunity for the young Bengals, but the Steelers end up with the win.