This week, the 6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers face off against the 6-2 Cincinnati Bengals. The winner will take their spot at the top of the AFC North. Â The first time around, the Bengals beat the Steelers with a last minute TD pass giving the Bengals the edge over the Steelers 23-20. Â It was Ben’s first loss in his home state of Ohio in his entire professional career. Â That was week 3….this is week 10. Â The difference?
For one thing, Troy is back and the defense has come together and made big plays in the last few games. The run defense is #1 in the NFL and promises to limit Cedric Benson to less than 100 yards (just like they did in week 3). Â The pass rush will step up and make sure Carson Palmer isn’t able to do what he did in the first game, make plays. Â The Bengals offense was able to contain James Harrison and keep him from being dangerous, however he’s clearly in the groove and look for both Harrison and Woodley to have a big game off the edge. Â Don’t discount playmakers like Farrior and Kiesel as well.
Ben is playing the best of his career, and there are just so many offensive weapons to go to. Â Hines and Santonio, along with Heath Miller lead the veterans on the field. Â But Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace (Congrats to this week’s Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week) have become go to guys with Rashard rushing for 155 yards against Denver last week and Wallace had four catches for 69 yards and 1 TD in a big moment. Â The offensive line is protecting Ben well and is able to bounce back after mistakes such as the missed block that led to a Ben fumble and return for a TD by Denver last week. Â After that score by Denver, the Steelers drove down the field for a score of their own. Â It’s the sense of teamwork that wasn’t quite formed from the very beginning of the season that makes the big difference. Â These are the Steelers I missed the first few weeks of the season. Playing with heart.
Second thing different about this game, it’s at Heinz Field. Â In big game situations, it’s tough to walk into OUR house and not deal with the effects of Steeler Nation, especially when the spot as leader of the AFC North is at stake. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be crazy. And it’s going to be played with passion and drive. Â The Ravens know what this means, the Bengals are about to find out.
And finally, the biggest difference is just the team overall. Â I think the Steelers are now playing with the attitude of reigning champs. Â THIS is Â a BIG game.
What do the Steelers have to do that they didn’t do the first time around? Coach Tomlin said it best, “Just play 60 minutes of football.”
In OUR house, they can’t let the Bengals hang around. Â They need to play to win and get ahead early.
While many think the Bengals will win this game, I believe that adversity and the fact that this game means something give the Steelers an edge. Â It could very well determine who goes to playoffs and who doesn’t. Â The Steelers need this win and will bring it home for Steeler Nation and themselves. It’s rare that in this type of game situation they don’t come through. Â I expect it to be intense from kick-off all the way through the last seconds of the game.
My prediction: Â Steelers 28 Bengals 10.
Ocho gets one TD, does something crazy in the end zone and doesn’t touch the ball again the rest of the game.
Go Steelers. Â Rock it @ Heinz.