Bengals vs. Steelers: Pittsburgh Needs To Keep Rolling
After a huge divisional win against the Ravens on Sunday night, the Steelers have to stay focused this week against the Bengals.
No matter what, division matchups are always big, and even though the Steelers should win this game, they cannot afford a letdown.
A win would give the Steelers a season sweep of the Bengals and 10 wins, which is one more than their 2009 total already.
Here are some thoughts on the game and some ways for the Steelers to keep their win streak going and, in turn, the Bengals' losing streak.
Big Ben Taking Control
After missing the first four games due to suspension, Roethlisberger seemed to take a few games to get back in rhythm.
His stats may not be as gaudy as they were a year ago, however he has clearly put the Steelers on his back, and I wouldn’t want anyone else as my quarterback at the end of the game when we need a drive.
I can’t even imagine what Roethlisberger would be doing if the Steelers offensive line were actually protecting him and if the receivers were consistently getting open and catching the ball.
Against the Bengals, all Roethlisberger needs to do is not turn the ball over and keep the Steelers offense on track.
Receivers Need To Be Consistent
Big Ben needs some help, especially with the offensive line decimated by injuries, and that means the receivers need to start stepping up consistently.
Hines Ward is in the midst of one of his worst seasons, statistically, and after having a 100-yard game against the Bills in Week 12, he only had one catch for 13 yards and one big drop on a third down against the Ravens.
With Heath Miller gone with a concussion, David Johnson looked good catching the ball, and rookie receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have been getting more and more opportunities in the offense.
Mike Wallace has been the only consistent receiver this year and was able to accumulate 76 yards against the Ravens, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few bombs to him against the Bengals.
Get Mendenhall That 1 Yard
The last time the Steelers and Bengals played, Rashard Mendenhall was able to get some running room, but he was held one yard short of a hundred yard game.
After only accumulating 54 total rushing yards against the Ravens, the Steelers need to run all over the Bengals and take some pressure off of Roethlisberger.
On the season the Steelers running game has been hot and cold, and Mendenhall has been held to under 60 yards four times and under 100 nine times.
With Roethlisberger beat up and battered every week, the Steelers should try and let Mendenhall carry the load this week.
McFadden Redeems Himself
Bryant McFadden had a nightmare of a game against the Ravens and coming into the game was nursing a bad hamstring.
Ike Taylor is universally known as the Steelers' best cornerback; however, we all know that McFadden can play better than that, and we need him to against the Bengals.
If the Steelers hope to contain the Bengals offense, they can’t afford for McFadden to be the type of liability that he was against the Ravens.
I believe he will pull it together and combine with Taylor to blanket the Bengal receivers and help the Steelers defense dominate this week.
Bring That Pass Rush
The Steelers pass rush looked good in spots against the Ravens last week, and the defense ended up with four sacks and eight quarterback hits.
Even with those stats, Joe Flacco was able to throw for 266 yards and seemed to have all day to throw on his touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin.
Against the Bengals the first time around, the Steelers had four sacks, as well, but Carson Palmer was able to throw for two touchdown passes.
This week the Steelers need James Harrison and Lamar Woodley to live in the Bengals backfield, and we need Carson Palmer to be on his back the entire game.
Troy Knows Carson
At this point everyone knows that Troy Polamalu and Carson Palmer used to room together at USC.
In this game the Steelers need Troy to be inside the head of his former roommate, and they need him to be all over the field making plays.
Troy has been everywhere the past few weeks, basically winning the game for the Steelers against the Ravens with his sack and forced fumble in the fourth quarter.
Hopefully Troy can keep making game-changing plays against the Bengals.
Like pretty much every team in the NFL, the Steelers have had to deal with huge injuries. Against the Ravens, they had another key guy go down.
Daniel Sepulveda, who was having maybe his best season as a pro, tore the ACL in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season.
This might not seem like a big deal to some. However, Sepulveda was huge in the Steelers maintaining the field position edge and pinning teams back in their own territory.
Sepulveda was also the holder on all field goals and extra points, and the Steelers have signed three-year veteran Jeremy Kapinos, who played for the Colts earlier this season.
No Big Plays
I’ve talked a lot about what the Steelers defense needs to do in this game against the Bengals and specifically what McFadden and Polamalu need to do.
This is probably the most important thing that both those guys and every guy in the secondary needs to be wary of, and that’s preventing the big play.
The Steelers defense basically shut the Ravens down last week except for a few big plays that helped them keep a lead until the fourth quarter.
Terrell Owens had 141 yards and two touchdown catches last time, and the Steelers need to keep him and Ochocinco quiet in this game.
The Cincinnati Bengals came back from 20 points down to cut the lead to just six in the first game, and came within a pass break-up on fourth down of coming all the way back.
Obviously the Steelers were able to hang on, but the Bengals will be looking to close the deal this time around, and Pittsburgh needs to be ready.
The Bengals are a desperate team in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, and the Steelers better keep that futility going for them.
A desperate team can be dangerous, and the Steelers better have learned from the Bills game that you cannot just walk into the stadium and win the game.
The Steelers came out on fire against the Bengals in the first matchup and scored 20 points in the first half.
They forced a fumble on the opening kickoff, which was capitalized into a touchdown, and blocked their only punt of the season on the next possession.
This is exactly the type of start the Steelers need against a team that is having a horrible season and has no business being in the game.
The Steelers need to put this game away early, and with the way the defense has been playing, there will be no second-half comebacks this time.