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Steelers-Bengals Week 9

The Steelers head to the armpit of America, Cincinnati, to take on the 2-5 Bengals on Monday Night Football. Remember at the beginning of the year when the sports “experts” couldn’t decide if the Bengals or Ravens were going to win the AFC North? Yeah, that was a long time ago. Still, the Steelers should not take this Bengals team lightly. Anything can happen when these two teams meet and the Steelers should be looking for payback after losing twice to this team last year.

– Carson Palmer has never been the same since his knee injury in the 2005 wildcard playoff game to the Steelers. Surprisingly, though, Palmer has the 7th most passing yards this year of any QB and the Bengals offense is currently ranked 6th in passing yards but their running attack, which was their strength last year, is just averaging over 100 yards a game, ranked 20th in the NFL. A lot of Palmer’s passes consist of the short variety, which could be trouble for a Steelers pass defense that continues to struggle and is currently ranked just 25th against the pass. The key will be to rattle, hit and sack Palmer, who does not like pressure AT ALL, in fact he folds like a lawn chair whenever a defensive player is near him. If the Steelers defense plays like they did in the 2nd half of last week’s game against the Saints don’t be surprised if the Bengals put up a number of time-consuming drives. Even though their offense is only averaging 21 points a game (ranked 18th), this offense is producing chunks of yards. Look for Cedric Benson, last year’s NFL Comback player, to have very minimal success against a Steeler defense allowing just 58 yards on the ground (Wow). If I’m the Bengals, or any team facing this Steeler defense I keep runs to a minimum just to keep the defensive players honest and attack through the air with a lot of short stuff. It’ll be interesting to see how long the Bengals try to run the ball with little success before focusing more on the pass in this game.

– The Steelers offense continues to struggle for long stretches in games. Even with Ben back in the lineup now for 3 games the Steeler passing game is still only ranked 29th and the team is averaging just 21 points a game, the same as the Bengals. Last year it could be argued that the Bengals defense overachieved at times but this year it’s definitely struggling so far, with low rankings in rushing, passing and points allowed. Even so, this defense does have some talent and their secondary is better than the numbers would suggest. CB Leon Hall already has 4 INT’s and is a very dangerous DB. The weaklink is probably safety Roy Williams, who, at this point in his career, is a borderline liability in pass coverage. The Steelers offense under Bruce Arians doesn’t really seem to attack any weaklinks on a team but if they did this is the player I’d go after in the passing game. Mendenhall and the Steelers running game could have some success. How much remains to be seen due to predictable playcalling and other factors. The Bengals tend to play aggressive in the passing game which could open up some big play possibilities or it could mean more offensive struggles like last week.

– It seems like whenever these two teams play special teams plays a big role in the outcome of the games. Don’t be surprised if that continues Monday night. Hopefully Manny Sanders continues to impress. And hopefully Jeff Reed finally makes a FG over 40 yards this year. He’ll probably be given the chance.

– Expect another close, probably low scoring game. Don’t fool yourself, the Bengals can most certainly win this game. I think the Steelers prevail, but it may not be pretty. Especially when you consider that the Steelers offense continues to struggle (against the Browns at home the score was 7-3 towards the end of the 3rd quarter, against the Saints the Steelers had only 3 points until the 4th quarter). If the Bengals defense can frustrate the Steelers offense and control the clock with long drives of short passes and win the turnover battle anything is possible in this one.

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