On the road in a hostile environment, the Pittsburgh Steelers will save their season. The Cincinnati Bengals will be in peril after this Monday night matchup. It is only Week 2, but in what figures to be a rough division, neither the Steelers nor the Bengals can afford to drop to 0-2.
The loser will be only a game out of first place, but the Ravens won't be struggling for long. They ran into a buzz saw in Week 1 with the Denver Broncos, and the Cleveland Browns' defense proved to be formidable. The latter won't be an easy win for the Bengals or Steelers in their two matchups this season, either.
Those realities make Monday night's AFC North battle a must-win for both teams.
After being held to just nine points in Week 1, why in the world are the Steelers going to beat the Bengals? I've got three reasons.
The Steelers are Almost Always Money in Cincinnati
Pittsburgh has won 11 of the last 12 meetings with the Bengals in Cincinnati. That includes a 24-17 win over Marvin Lewis' team in 2012. No matter how you spin those numbers, that is significant. The Steelers are 9-3 against the Bengals since 2007.
That happens to be the year Mike Tomlin took over as head coach. All 12 of those games have been head-to-head coaching matchups between Tomlin and Lewis.
Sometimes, players simply have another player's number. Likewise, coaches can have another coach's number.
The Bengals have had turnover issues dating back to last season. The team has turned the ball over nine times in their last five games. It seems almost certain this game will remain close, much like the Bengals' loss to the Chicago Bears was in Week 1.
In Chicago, three turnovers helped trip up the Bengals. In Week 2, look for this disturbing trend to continue. The Steelers' defense has made the transition to a younger, more athletic group. Though they only had one sack in Week 1, they allowed just 3.6 yards per play in defeat.
Cincinnati has youngsters that they depend on heavily on offense, including tight end Tyler Eifert, running back Giovani Bernard and wide receiver Mohammed Sanu. The latter coughed up a big fumble in Week 1. Don't be surprised if he or another of the team's lesser-experienced players is bitten by the turnover again.
Count on a Stronger Running Game from the Steelers
Who wins the Monday night matchup?
In Week 1, the Steelers inexplicably ran the ball just 15 times, despite losing the game by a score of 16-9. You can bet Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley will make running the ball a priority in Week 2.
Running back Jonathan Dwyer returns to the lineup this week, per Scott Brown of ESPN. Look for him to make an impact. He was released two weeks ago, but recently re-signed. Dwyer has something to prove, and he'll establish the running game enough to set up the play-action pass for Ben Roethlisberger.
In a game where defense and a solid running game helps them control the clock and field position, the Steelers will grab a huge win over the Bengals 20-10.
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