By now the conversation related to last years’ playoff game has touched every blog, radio station and TV channel, ad nauseum. I’m not touching that, much. Here are two scenarios that could trigger a win for either team.
Why the Steelers will win: A 60-minute repeat of the second half of Week 1, and maybe some mind games
If the Steelers’ offense comes out fast and puts up points early, which would be my game plan, the Bengals will have to spend too much energy stopping the run. DeAngelo Williams is coming off AFC Player of the Week accolades, and he and the offensive line are primed to show it’s not a one-time effort. Grinding out 5-yards per carry and forcing the Bengals to stack the box will give Ben Roethlisberger more opportunities to test the defense downfield. Marcus Wheaton looks to make his season debut, and Eli Rogers has shown he can play with the big boys.
Big Ben’s nemesis, Reggie Nelson is not on the roster anymore, but Adam Jones certainly remains. Jones is a solid defensive back, but he gets frustrated easily against Pittsburgh. Putting points up early, and receivers getting behind the defense will get inside the head of the artist formerly known as Pac-Man. This will lead to poorer play and possibly a personal foul or two from Jones. A couple of first down mic drops and touchdown dances from Antonio Brown should do the trick.
Why the Bengals will win: Lack of discipline from the defense
It’s no secret that the Bengals have weapons. A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard are all talented and have been together with quarterback Andy Dalton for a few seasons now. Green is a straight up stud and can and will catch just about everything thrown his way. Speed, great hands and height all make him a match-up problem for even the best defensive backs. The Steelers will need to be solid in coverage and not let him get behind the safeties, otherwise it will make for a long afternoon at Heinz Field.
Also, Cam Heyward and his band of marauders will need to be solid against the run and get some pressure on Dalton. If not, Green, Tyler Boyd and company will put up points in bunches. The defense will need to play better, particularly when it comes to tackling. I love hard hitting defense as much as the next guy, but the Steelers need to hit hard and wrap ‘em up. If not, the Bengals’ offense will make the Steelers pay dearly.
Obviously, there are many different scenarios that can affect the outcome of Sunday’s game, but in my mind these two are the most prominent. The Pittsburgh offense needs to get off to a fast start and maintain momentum throughout the game. The Bengals are are too talented and will score some points, but if the defense doesn’t come out and play fundamentally sound football, they will put the offense in a tough position, playing from behind. Game winning fourth quarter drives are great, but having a victory well in hand by the fourth quarter against a division rival is even better in my book.
I want the Bengals demoralized after a beatdown, not fired up because they stole one (or even almost stole one) in Heinz Field this Sunday.