The Cincinnati Bengals are still searching for that elusive first win as they get set to host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 12. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, November 24 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Fans in the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Baltimore markets can watch the game on CBS.
According to our Week 12 NFL odds, the Steelers are 6.5-point favorites on the road. Meanwhile, the over/under for the game is set at 39 points.
The Steelers enter this game with a number of problems. For starters, they saw their four-game winning streak come to end last Monday, losing 21-7 to the Browns. Mike Tomlin’s team is also dealing with the fallout from the brawl that ended that game, including center Maurkice Pouncey being suspended for two games.
At the same time, the Steelers are in the middle of the playoff picture. At 5-5, Pittsburgh is a game out of a Wild Card spot, so there’s plenty of work to do this season. While Pittsburgh’s schedule looks favorable with four of their final six games against teams with a losing record, the Steelers are also on the road for four of their final six games. Coming off a road loss last week, it’s crucial that the Steelers avoid another letdown this week.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are quickly running out of chances to get at least one win and avoid a winless 2019. They were once again close last week, trailing Oakland 14-10 heading into the fourth quarter. But the offense under rookie quarterback Ryan Finley couldn’t get much going after a first-quarter touchdown with Cincinnati ultimately losing 17-10.
At 0-10, the Bengals have just six chances left to win a game for rookie head coach Zac Taylor. If it matters, four of Cincinnati’s last six games are at home, including games with the Jets and Browns, as well as a road game against the Dolphins. That should give the Bengals a glimmer of hope that they can get a win.
Of course, the Bengals would prefer to get a win this week against the rival Steelers. Despite the animosity between these teams, Cincinnati doesn’t have a win over the Steelers since the 2015 season. They’ve even lost six in a row to Pittsburgh on their home field. The Steelers also had their way with the Bengals back in September, winning 27-3 in a battle of previously winless teams.
I’ll be upfront when I say that there are a lot of reasons to pick against the Steelers this week. They’re on a short week, playing on the road, surrounded by controversy, and dealing with a lot of injuries. On top of that, they’re expected to win by at least a touchdown. That made it awfully tempting to take a shot on the Bengals. However, it’s hard to think that Cincinnati is going to get a win against a team in the playoff hunt, especially one that dominated them two months ago. It’s with a fair amount of reluctance that I’ll lay down the points and lean toward the Steelers to win and cover.
While it’s only been two games, it’s safe to say that benching Andy Dalton for Finley hasn’t worked out the way the Bengals hoped. Finley was known for his accuracy coming out of college, but he’s completed less than half of his passes through two games. Even against a below-average Oakland defense last week, Finley couldn’t find much success. It’s possible that he just doesn’t have the arm strength to play at this level.
The only silver lining for the Bengals is that Joe Mixon is finally starting to come alive. He’s run for 266 yards over his last three games, which is a big improvement. That being said, he has just one run of over 20 yards this season. He’ll also be going up against one of the best defensive teams in the league this week. With Finley at quarterback, the Steelers should be able to focus on stopping Mixon. I’m not sure if the Cincinnati running game will be able to provide much support for their young quarterback. I also worry about Finley turning it over against the Pittsburgh defense.
On the other side of the ball, it’s fair to worry a little about Mason Rudolph. He’s been dreadful the past two weeks with the Steelers scoring just one offensive touchdown in each game. Rudolph also took four sacks and threw four interceptions against Cleveland on Monday. To make matters worse, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Conner are all unlikely to play this week.
However, I’ll give Rudolph the benefit of the doubt for one more game. After all, this is the Cincinnati defense. Other than the Raiders last week, every team has scored over 20 points against the Bengals this season. Rudolph was also 24 of 28 for 229 yards and two touchdowns when he faced the Bengals earlier this year. Despite some recent struggles, he should feel comfortable facing the Cincinnati defense.
Again, I’m not completely sold on the Steelers being able to win and cover this game because there’s a lot working against them. However, it’s hard to believe in the Bengals, who have lost more than half of their games by at least a touchdown. I’ll take a chance on the Steelers to bounce back quickly and beat Cincinnati by a comfortable margin.