The Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) play host to their bitter rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals (2-3), this Sunday from Heinz Field. Game time is set for 4:25 EST, with the Steelers looking to avoid playing down to another less-talented opponent. The game can be found with NFL Sunday Ticket, or on CBS in select markets.
The Steelers have been one of the biggest question marks in the league this season. There’s no denying the immense amount of talent they have at the skill positions, the offensive line, and in the front seven on D. But they were nearly beaten by Cleveland, lost to Chicago in OT, and were given a whupping by Jacksonville.
But they also beat the last undefeated team (Chiefs) in the league, and took down playoff contenders Minnesota and Baltimore. And they’ve accomplished such wins even with Ben Roethlisberger having thrown more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (7). But the resurgence of dominating RB Le’Veon Bell did wonders for them last week.
The Bengals own run game has yet to surface, as rookie Joe Mixon hasn’t quite been up to snuff (2.8 YPC). Still, Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard haven’t been consistent enough to take away his carries. They’ve had to rely on a defense that’s giving up less than 17 PPG.
They’re coming off two straight wins over the Bills and Browns, but come in as 5-point underdogs in Pittsburgh.
It’s no secret Pittsburgh has risen and fallen to the level of each opponent its faced. But against a hated rival, things should be different. This isn’t going to play an NFC team on the road or getting caught off-guard by Jacksonville. This is a team they have bad blood with.
Pittsburgh has only lost one of the last eight spreads against the Bengals, and has their No. 1 weapon, Bell, back to his former self. This will be the true test for him, with the Cinci rush D being one of the best in the league.
They gave up big yardage on the ground to Baltimore and Houston to start the season. Since then, they’ve gone on a tear against the run, only giving up 3.2 YPC in their last three games. But before you think that’ll be a tough task for Bell, look at who the Bengals have played: Green Bay, Cleveland, and Buffalo. None of those teams have capable run games this year.
There’s very few lines in the league that can push you around like Pittsburgh’s can. Bell did just fine against the Bengals in their last meeting (over 4.0 YPC, 131 total yards). He looks as patient but hungry as ever when waiting and hitting the holes, and certainly won’t be bested on the ground by the Bengals backs.
They’ve still yet to find a worthy starter, and it’s not the only concerns they have on offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton has been shaky. He threw four touchdowns against 0-6 Cleveland, but has been predominantly ineffective otherwise. Throw that game out, and he had only half as many TDs as INTs (6), and is behind the likes of Brian Hoyer and Trevor Siemian in passing yards.
Cincinnati will have to generate some flash of offense. The likelihood of that happening against a fellow top-5 scoring defense are slim unless WR A.J Green completely takes over the game.
This Steelers group had its awakening last week in a clinic they put on against Kansas City. And Bell will be the difference, eventually wearing Cinci down, with the Bengals having next-to-nothing to back them up on offense.