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Steelers-Bengals Game 'Flexed'

Another quick post before resuming full Steelers-Dolphins coverage tomorrow.

Next week's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals has been bumped to NBC's Football Night in America. Honestly, I'm a bit surprised by the decision. The Jaguars at the Colts seems like a more obvious choice, with 1st place on the line in the AFC South. And although I'm eternally grateful that this game wasn't chosen, I'm a bit shocked the Bears at the Giants (two teams with massive television markets nationwide) wasn't chosen instead.

No need to look ahead to this game yet - us fans, and perhaps the team as well, made that mistake last week with the Jets - but it's worth noting for no other reason than the fact that the Steelers will be playing once more on national television, which of course is good news for those fans who wouldn't otherwise have the game televised in their local market.

I mentioned in my Week 12 Thoughts that the Bengals scare me, despite having underachieved all year. We'll get into this later this week, but here's basically why I'm nervous: 1) our running game, which has been our great neutralizer against the Bengals' offense in recent contests, all of a sudden is out of sorts 2)Rudi Johnson is healthy 3) if Marvin Lewis is worth a damn as a motivator (which I'm not convinced he is however) he can convince this team that a win next week against the Steelers keeps their playoff chances alive.

I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. A Bengals win next week (combined with a Browns loss at Arizona), would give the Bengals an outside shot at the playoffs. Extra empahsis on outside mind you, but with Tennessee reeling, Buffalo's loss, and Denver's collapse, the Bengals aren't yet totally buried. And, even if we win tomorrow against Miami, the Steelers aren't in the clear just yet themselves. We still have road games at New England and Baltimore, a home tilt against the Jaguars, and a tricky game against a Rams team I'm not sure we match up well with (provided Bulger's healthy). I don't want to think negative thoughts about my beloved Steelers, but after what we've seen from Pittsburgh in their 3 disappointing losses, it'd be foolish to pencil in wins against any of our remaining opponents besides perhaps Miami tomorrow.

Even though injuries on the defensive side of the ball have put Cincinnati waaay behind the 8-ball, there's no denying they still sport a top-7 offense in this league. If we can't control the game and the clock with our running game (which we haven't been able to do in several weeks now), this Bengals team is still plenty capable of hanging 30+ on us.

I'm expecting a closer game than it should be, but at least the game will be on national television for all of us to enjoy in the comfort of our homes.