Steelers Will Face Challenges against Cincinnati

Vicki FarriesCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 20:  Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on November 20, 2008  in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Despite the loss to the Chicago Bears this past Sunday, the Steelers did make strides as they prepare for game three against division opponent Cincinnati Bengals.

There is a glimmer of improvement in the running game 36 yards in 23 attempts; 1.8 yard per carry against the Titans, to 4.8 rushing yards on 22 carries against the Bears.

The offensive line created more rushing opportunities for running backs Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall

Parker rushed 47 yards on 14 attempts, Mendenhall 39 on 3 (2 attempts no gain).

Four runs were of at least 12 yards and Mendenhall’s 39-yard run.

The offensive line continues to improve in pass protection but gave up two sacks (two less than the week before)

So with such improvements in the offense, why was there one rushing touchdown (Roethlisberger) and one passing (tight end Matt Spaeth)?

Can we be encouraged by the sheer fact that the Steelers earned one more touchdown in Week two versus zero in Week one?

I mean they have scored 27 points in two games.

What can we expect next week; one more touchdown than what was produced from week two?

Why isn’t the Steeler offense producing more?

At this stage of the game, our Super Bowl champs are not looking so super.

Against the Titans, Roethlisberger completed 33 passes from 43 attempts for 363 yards and one touchdown, and in game two, he completed 23 passes out of 35 attempts for 221 yards and one touchdown.

Roethlisberger is suppose to be in his prime and should be better, right?

One touchdown per game does not a winner make and at this rate, “It would be easy in Cincinnati, Sunday.”

Since the run game has shown some improvement, we can probably expect more of a run game this week especially with Parker healthy.

Parker loves to play the Bengals on the road.

In three career games in Cincinnati, Parker has averaged 130.3 rushing yards per game

For the third straight week, the Bengals will face one more 3-4 defensive scheme.

The Steelers 3-4 scheme is similar to the Packers since Dom Capers is the Packers current defensive coordinator.

Remember, it was Capers, Bill Cowher and Dick LeBeau, who worked together to develop the 3-4 defensive scheme for the Steelers during the early nineties.

Last week, the Steelers defense has shown that they won’t give on the ground game, as the Bears managed 43 yards on just 18 carries.

Running back Matt Forte gained only 29 yards on 13 tries. 

However on the passing game, Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler completed 27 of 38 passes for 236 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

He was sacked just once by defensive end Aaron Smith.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer completed 15 of 23 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns against the Packers last week.

That’s 18 yards less than Roethlisberger did last week and 2 more touchdowns.

Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and delivered on his promise to perform a Lambeau leap in Green Bay.

What do you think he will have planned this week?

Wide receiver Chris Henry has been known to torch the Steeler secondary and that was with former Bengal TJ Houshmandzadeh in the line-up.

With Houshmandzadeh gone, and a thin Steeler secondary, this could open up more opportunities for Henry score against the Steelers, if he plays.

The Bengals defense has improved and leads the NFL with nine sacks, five from defensive end Antwan Odom.

The Steelers on the other-hand have only two sacks on the season.

Last season, the Steelers led the AFC with 51 sacks.

Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley combined for 27 1/2 sacks last season, and thus far have none in 2009.

The Steeler offensive line will have to account for defensive end Robert Geathers and defensive tackles Domata Peko and Tank Johnson.

One more thing to note about this game; wide receiver Hines Ward and linebacker Keith Rivers will be meeting for the first time since Ward’s the jaw-breaking hit that ended Rivers’ season.

It was that hit which prompted the “Hines Ward rule.”

The rule is a 15-yard penalty for any a player who makes an illegal blindside block from the helmet, forearm or shoulder and lands to the head or neck area of the defender.

Rivers was quoted to say it was a “clean hit,” and followed that up by saying he was looking forward to confronting Ward.

Ward on the other hand, didn’t seem to shrink when he said the “given a chance to level Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers with another rattling hit, he would do it again.

Finally, what’s going on with special teams?

Kick-punt returner Stefan Logan fumbled away a kickoff and averaged only 6.0 yards on six punt returns Sunday

Coach Tomlin said about kicker Jeff Reed, who missed two field goals in the fourth quarter last Sunday: "I'm confident he's capable of doing the job and doing it at a high level. We carried him off the field the week before. He'll bounce back."

Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette predicts:

“The Steelers might not have much success in Chicago (1-12 lifetime), but they do in Cincinnati, where they have won their past eight games. The Bengals have averaged 12.6 points in those eight losses.”

Injury report

Steelers practice report: Santonio Holmes' left wrist was injured when he put his hand on the ground to brace a fall Sunday, was put in a large ice wrap on Monday and wore a small cast on Tuesday.

Ryan Mundy, on the practice squad as a rookie in 2008, could find himself as the starting strong safety Sunday because of injuries to Troy Polamalu and Tyrone Carter.

Wide receiver Limas Sweed (foot) and linebacker Lawrence Timmons (ankle) practiced fully on Wednesday and both should be able to play on Sunday.

Wide receiver Hines Ward (not injury related) and defensive end Aaron Smith (not injury related) had their normal Wednesday off from practice.

Bengals practice report: running back Cedric Benson (ankle), along with corner back David Jones (foot) and Chris Henry (quadriceps), did not participate in practice on Wednesday.

Offensive guard  Nate Livings (knee) and corner back Johnathan Joseph (ankle) were limited in their participation.

Tackle Andre Smith (foot) has already been ruled out for this week.


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