December 4, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (34) carries the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE
It’s time to turn away from the loss to the Tennessee Titans and focus on preparing to play the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers play the Bengals twice a year and the rivalry between the teams is strong. This division rivalry is stronger than the in-state rivalry with the Eagles. It’s exciting for Steelers fan because it’s an easy game for Western Pennsylvania-based fans to travel to. The rivalry has had many unexpected twists and turns over the years and the divisional AND regional bragging rights mean a lot to each team’s fans. Even when the Bengals are at their worst, they often manage to make it a difficult game for the Steelers. Yes, the Steelers have won the last four games against the Bengals, but don’t underestimate the Bengals. They are used to playing the Steelers and they are looking to get their season back on track too.
What the Steelers have going for them in this game:
Ben Roethlisberger is playing at a high level. He’s always been an outstanding quarterback, but his efficiency this year has gone up another level. If he remains patient and does not get frustrated, he can control this game. Mendenhall’s Achilles injury is not severe and he may be available for the game. However if he isn’t, both Baron Batch and Chris Rainey showed promise during the game with the Titans. Mendenhall is a great spark for the offense, but Batch and Rainey had their own explosive moments last week too. It’s also good news that the Steelers wide receivers and tight ends remain healthy. The Bengals cornerbacks have been injury ridden so the offense might find some holes in the Bengals defensive coverage. Also, the Steelers have a few more days off than the Bengals do to rest up and prepare.
What the Steelers have going against them:
One word: injuries. The offensive line is beat up AGAIN. During the game with the Titan’s, the injuries just kept coming. It’s not surprising with their style of play, but hopefully the extra time off will get them healthy. If Roethlisberger is continually rushed or chased out of the pocket, his efficiency will go down the drain. On the other side of the ball, defensive injuries are working against the Steelers and opponents are able to take advantage. Unfamiliar adjustments continue to make the Steelers look unpolished and ill-prepared, which really doesn’t speak to their talent and capability. Woodley’s presence was sorely missed in the last game; however, there is no one position or person to point to that would fix everything. It’s cumulative just like it always is. Getting any one player back won’t cure everything, so the adjustments need to be routine, not a surprise.
What the Steelers need to watch out for:
The Steelers haven’t won an away game in 2012. The Bengals will have the home field advantage. Sure, there will be some Steelers fans in the crown, but the majority of the fans will be behind the Bengals. Some of the Steelers may not have shaken off the loss to the Titans and this could rattle them more. Andy Dalton has a quarterback rating of 92.9 and he’s had some great games. A.J. Green is a challenge to defend. His 2012 numbers show he is on track to surpass last year, as long as he remains healthy. Even with a previous knee injury, Green had seven receptions with two touchdowns against the Browns.
What the Steelers may be able to exploit:
The Bengals have tough losses in their last two games. The loss against the underdog Dolphins on Oct 7th was unexpected and they followed that with loss to the Browns, another division rival on the 14th. Even though Dalton has a great QBR, his interception rate is high already, so the defense should be able to exploit some of Dalton’s throwing decisions. The team is digging out of a hole and the emotion can either work against them or for them.
What the Steelers need most:
Belief. Ignore the criticism from people like me and get your heads in the game and play. Plenty of teams have managed to win with less talent than the Steelers have. I’ve said it before: the joy of playing does not seem to be there. The players understand what they need to do to turn the season around, but they must share the belief that it CAN be done and that they enjoy competing with their teammates. A win against the Bengals, on the road—in the Bengals’ house, will go a long way to stirring the can-do attitude they need.