I couldn't bring myself to write "Who are you rooting for?" since the notion of rooting for either of those teams is like rooting for tuberculosis over menengitis. Still, it's an important division game and we should pay it some mind. Since both franchises register an almost perfect 10 on the chart of things I truly despise in life (the Ratbirds being slightly less objectionable on the grounds that at least they play the game the way it should be played, unlike the Bengals who have long epitomized both futility and classlessness), the ultimate outcome here would of course be a tie. Unfulfilling for both teams and ultimately beneficial to the Steelers in the standings. That's not likely, though. One of these teams is going to win.
The Bengals are tied with the Steelers atop the division at 5-2. Baltimore sits one back at 4-3. A Bengals win puts Baltimore two back of Cincy, and working from the standpoint that we take care of business in Denver next Monday night, two back of us as well. Wins by the Ratbirds and Steelers puts both teams a game behind us. So which scenario do you like best? Would you rather lead both teams by a game or be tied with Cincy with the Ravens two back?
To help answer the question, let's look at the remaining schedules for each team:
BALT CINCY PITT
@Cincy Balt @ Denver
@Cleve @Pitt Cincy
Indy @Oak @KC
Pitt Cleve @Balt
@GB Detroit Oak
Detroit @Minn @Cleve
Chicago @SD GB
@Pitt KC Balt
@Oak @NYJ @Miami
It's hard to project how each team will finish. Injuries can obviously play a part (although, to paraphrase Coach Tomlin, injuries shouldn't matter to the Steelers because the expectation doesn't change). The Ratbirds have three tough road games left (at Cincy, Green Bay and Pittsburgh) and two difficult games at home (Indy and Pitt, with a potential third in the Bears). Cincy has to go to Pitt, Minnesota, San Diego and the Jets, plus a cross-country trip to Oakland which they should win but will be taxing nonetheless due to the travel. All of those games will be tough for them. However, other than Baltimore next weekend, their remaining home schedule is a breeze (Cleve, Detroit and KC). The Steelers have to go to Denver and Baltimore, both of which will be tough, and then they host Cincy and Baltimore. The rest of their schedule (@KC, Oak, @Cle, GB, @Miami) looks very managable.
Based on the schedules, I'd say the Steelers enjoy a slight advantage in that they have less tough road games and they get 2 of their 3 big divisional games against Cincy and Baltimore at home. Cincy looks to have it the toughest. Their road schedule will be a bitch. That's why, as much as I hate to say it, I'm rooting for them to beat the Ratbirds. Or rather, that's why I'm rooting against the Ratbirds. I think Cincy's road schedule will keep them for staying with us down the stretch. Inevitably, I believe the division will once again come down to us against Baltimore. So if Cincy can push Baltimore two games behind us, I say please do.
Now let's do our part and take care of business up in the Rockies. Go Steelers!