With the Cincinnati Bengals only Monday Night Football game coming after a disappointing loss to the Chicago Bears in week 1, will the team come up big under the national spotlight against their division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers?
As the Bengals head into week 2 after the 24-21 letdown in Chicago, the team is poised to share a first-place tie with the Baltimore Ravens if they win tomorrow at home.
With the Steelers leading the all-time series 52-33, there is reason to believe that a new era of Bengals’ dominance may arrive again after a long hiatus since the ’80s.
Here are some keys to tomorrow’s game
1. Get ‘em while they’re down
After losing to the Tennessee Titans 16-9, the Steelers are searching for a bright spot and a new starting center after Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey tore his knee four minutes into the season opener. With the Steelers’ offensive line giving up five sacks while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was constantly being pressured (gaining less than 200 yards passing) the opportunity is ripe for the Bengals’ defense to kick start itself after struggling last week. With the Steelers offense unable to click in the passing or running game – only gaining 32 yards on 15 carries- tomorrow’s game is on the Bengals’ offense to win.
2. Speaking of offense
The Bengals currently rank 21st in overall yards (340). While the sampling size is extremely small, it does show that the offense has room to grow, especially in the running game that finished with 63 yards last week. But this isn’t where the Bengals best matchup is.
To win this game, the Bengals are going to have to go to the air, which was the team’s strength last week. The Steelers might be able to answer A.J. Green with Ike Taylor. Green had a very good showing last week with 162 receiving yards and two touchdowns on nine catches.
However, Ike Taylor is much better than the Bears’ Charles Tillman in man coverage, which is what the Steelers like to run with Taylor because he is one of the best cornerbacks in the league.
The Bengals will need to target Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert because the Steelers don’t have an answer at linebacker for either player. With the two players collecting 10 passes between them last week, Jay Gruden and the Bengals are obviously not afraid to get them the ball. Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau is one of the best but the Bengals have too many weapons to account for.
Even though Pittsburgh lost to the Titans last week, the defense is still no slouch coming off a number one ranking in the NFL last year. With veteran safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu coming off a good showing in week 1 with 19 tackles (13 and 6 respectively), as part of what some call an “aged defense”, they still hold their own. Although the Bengals and Steelers didn’t generate many turnovers, it will be another game that is decided by who coughs up the ball more.
As stated in the last article, Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis has to get the team’s mentality right if the Bengals want to be serious contenders for the playoffs and beyond. With the time out/personnel debacle last week, how the game is managed could subtly be a huge factor towards victory.
Even though there has been talk about whether or not Mike Tomlin is on the hot seat, the Steelers head coach has managed the team to a Super bowl victory and a 63-34 record since taking over in 2007. Even with the Steelers offensive line that has been subpar the past few years, and injuries to key players, Tomlin’s Steelers always find a way to pull out victories.
The Bengals need to take advantage of every opportunity on Monday night if they want to win. If they let the Steelers hang around too long, they’ll have to deal with Ben Roethlisberger who is one of the best in fourth quarter victories.