While the Steelers have won the last 8 games in Cincinnati, this is a new and somewhat improved Bengals team they will face tomorrow. Â Carson Palmer is healthy. Â Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson is trying to have a more productive season than last year. And an improved defense with veteran safety Roy Williams along with linebacker Rey Maualuga. Â Over the last two weeks, Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom has led the NFL in sacks. Â Last week he sacked Green Bay’s Aaron Rogers 5 times and hit him a couple more. Â In other words, watch out Benny-they are coming for you. Â I hope the line stands strong and protects you.
This game is big for both teams – it could give the Bengals some credibility – more than just a fluke; and it could set the course for the rest of the season for the Steelers and redemption for the loss on the road last week to the Bears. Â It is, in fact, the opener in the AFC North for both teams.
I look for Ben to have a big passing game. Â Ben is 11-0 in his home state, and 6-0 against the Bengals in Cincinnati, but that doesn’t mean you can take this team for granted. Â Santonio Holmes has averaged 96 yards per game over the last 4 games against the Bengals. Â Hines Ward will face a lot of opposition, especially since he’s adamant that if he had to hit Rivers again, he would. Â His argument is that he’ll take the fine and risk a freak accident like Keith Rivers jaw breaking rather than a career ending blow going low. Â There hasn’t been much discussion from Rivers on meeting up with Ward again on game day, but one can assume it will be a rough game. It’s also going to be a close game.
Willie Parker and Reshard Mendenhall would like nothing better than to have a big running game day. Â I’m sure the Bengals are ready for that. Â This is one of the best defenses the Bengals have had a while. Â The problem with much of the Steelers run game – it’s predictable. Â If I Â can see what’s coming, and I know barely anything about actual plays, then I am sure the opposing defense can pick it up. Â The Steelers need to be a little spontaneous. Â Strategically spontaneous.
The defense still doesn’t look like the Steelers defense of 2008 – YET. Â Not sure why. Â But with Troy out, the defense seems to stumble. Â This week, Tyrone Carter – the back up strong safety – is playing with a bruised thigh. Â If something happens to him, Ryan Mundy enters the lineup. Â While the D doesn’t look gelled to me, no opposing player has reached 100 yards in the past 20 regular season games against the Steelers and they are likely going to keep that stat in place.
Ike Taylor and Will Gay both need to make an impact and keep both Ocho and Chris Henry covered. The Steelers defense will likely float a linebacker and a safety over the top for additional pass coverage, but sometimes that leaves the weaker opposing WR with flexibility. Â In this situation, both Ocho and Chris Henry are threats.
On twitter this week, OchoCinco said, “This week I have Ike Taylor and William Gay, and I’m looking forward to making them kiss the baby.” Not sure how much babykissing there will be, or LambeauLeaps, or even Spanish themed celebrations – but one thing I can say, Chad keeps twitter and football entertaining.
Overall, this game is going to be good….and too close for healthy blood pressure. Â The defense and penalties will be keys to who wins.
Still, I predict a Steelers win, 21-17.
Let’s do this.