It’s Week 15 and the Steelers, riding a 4-game winning streak, are headed to Cincinnati for their second meeting with their rival, the Bengals. The dislike these two teams have for each other is no secret. The Steelers’ record against Cincinnati is 56-35-0 and they’re 2-0 against the Bengals in postseason play. Let’s take a quick look at some scenarios that could mean a fifth straight win for the Black and Gold or a loss.
Why the Steelers will win:
- Just like the game in Buffalo, it starts up front. If the offensive line can pave the way for Le’Veon Bell against the Bengals defense (which according to teamrankings.com ranks 25th in the league—allowing 119 yards per game on the ground), and if Todd Haley sticks to the same script he used in Buffalo, Bell will wear this defense down and give Ben Roethlisberger opportunities for some big plays through play action. The offensive line and Bell are really clicking right now and Roosevelt Nix plays fullback with an intensity and passion not seen since Dan Kreider used to lead the way for Steelers running backs.
- The offensive line should continue the solid and consistent pass protection they’ve shown so far. The big men are playing very well as a unit and they’ve given Ben a pretty clean pocket to work from. Speaking of Ben, I suspect he bounces back from the three interception afternoon in Buffalo and he and his receivers are on the same page for this game. While I think the game will revolve around Bell, Ben will be ready to lead by example and make some plays with his arm.
- On defense, Keith Butler is trusting his defense with the blitz. The play of Artie Burns and Sean Davis over the past four weeks has really helped the entire defense gel and focus on their individual assignments. There’s no doubt that the Bengals offense has talent even without A.J. Green, and they will test the secondary. Coach Butler will bring some blitz packages to disrupt Dalton and the secondary will make some plays.
Why the Bengals will win:
- If the poor tackling seen later in the Buffalo game shows it’s ugly head against the Bengals, the Steelers will need their offense to put up a ton of points. Andy Dalton can evade a sack and make a play downfield. I expect the Pittsburgh defense to see a lot of Tyler Eifert, especially if Green doesn’t play. If Dalton can escape pressure and find an open Eifert downfield, the secondary needs to finish the tackle or they’ll spend a lot more time on the field than they’d like.
- If Ben Roethlisberger has another 3-interception game, the Steelers will lose. These Steelers-Bengals games tend to be very close. The Steelers’ offense can’t afford to give away yards, field position or points to the Bengals.
- Lost tempers will end up in penalties. These teams have a well-documented history and this game could get heated. If the Steelers’ players don’t maintain their composure and commit costly penalties, they could cost their team the game.
At the end of the day, the Steelers have everything to play for, and the Bengals are desperately trying not to get swept by the Steelers this year. Both are good motivating factors, but I give the Steelers the edge. I think they play a cleaner, more efficient game and head back to Heinz Field with their fifth straight win.