Both teams might have lost last week, but there are still plenty of people predicting that the Cincinnati Bengals will crush the Pittsburgh Steelers in the teams’ Week 2 Monday night matchup.
However, some analysts have noticed a few key facts about the game that are worth watching that could give the Steelers a real shot at winning in Cincinnati.
There’s certainly reason for skepticism about Pittsburgh’s chances.
The team couldn’t even muster 200 total yards of offense against the Tennessee Titans and lost three key players for the season.
By contrast, although the Bengals lost to the Chicago Bears 24-21, they took a 21-10 lead into the third quarter, and the Bears needed a stirring comeback to pull out the win.
Despite the loss, receiver A.J. Green looked dominant as well, piling up 162 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions.
The Steelers were never even really in the game against the lowly Titans, yet the Bengals hung in there against a likely playoff team.
But that’s not even close to the whole story, as many on Twitter have pointed out.
It all starts with some new consistency and depth on the offensive line.
When Maurkice Pouncey went out against the Titans, the line was thrown into disarray, producing the subpar offensive performance.
What I can gather is that Beachum will start in Cincy with Velasco taking over after that. At least that seems like the plan today— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) September 11, 2013
Now, Kelvin Beachum has had a full week to practice with the starters, and if he struggles, the newly signed Fernando Velasco will be able to relieve him.
While Green might seem like an intimidating opponent as well, some have noted that he doesn’t scare the Steelers.
Clark: “We don’t worry about A.J. (Green) so much because Ike has covered him well. The two tight ends, that’s the big challenge.” #Steelers— Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) September 11, 2013
Cornerback Ike Taylor has helped the Steelers’ defense shut down Green in most of their matches against him.
He only has one 100-yard game against Pittsburgh, a 116-yard effort at the end of last season, and the team held him to just one catch for eight yards in their late October matchup last year.
Yet, the most important factor in the team’s favor is their motivation to silence a certain former linebacker.
Harrison on Steelers opener: "They had a rough one . . . They lost their best offensive player they had in Pouncey."— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) September 12, 2013
James Harrison certainly exited Pittsburgh on acrimonious terms, and, thanks to veiled shots like these against Ben Roethlisberger, there’s little doubt the offense is motivated to face the Bengals’ defense.
That’s what it all really comes down to for the Steelers.
Many analysts have done a complete about-face on their opinions of Pittsburgh’s prospects prior to the season, and the team’s taken notice.
While there were plenty of people projecting this team as a Super Bowl favorite in the offseason, they’ve largely jumped off the bandwagon after the team’s dismal performance against Tennessee.
But that’s just fueled the fire motivating Pittsburgh for this game.
The team has plenty of experience playing on Monday nights and Cincinnati is one of the Steelers’ most hated rivals—there’s little doubt that they’ll come to play in this one.
Roethlisberger always seem to perform well against the Bengals as well.
Even in a slightly down year last season, he threw for 498 yards and completed 63% of his passes in his two games against the Bengals.
Now, combined with a revamped running game, some extra motivation against James Harrison and an experienced defense, the team should have a much better shot at winning in Cincinnati.
Things might’ve looked ugly initially for Pittsburgh, but they’ll surprise quite a few people this week.