Here is hoping that Heinz Field will be in much better shape Sunday night when the Cincinnati Bengals come calling on the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC North showdown on Sunday night football. Last week the field at Heinz was a joke, as both the Steelers and Dolphins spent the night simply trying to stay on their feet, and it totally made the game between the two teams more of a match of survival than a game where there was any strategy involved. The Steelers escaped, and I mean escaped, with a 3-0 win, and with it they remain in first in the AFC North, one game over the Browns who are at 7-4.
The Bengals have by all accounts had an awful season. They are 4-7, but hopes were much higher for this season, and even though they beat up the Titans at home last Sunday, they simply have not played anywhere near where they are capable of. Many will point to a defense that has been simply sad this year, allowing huge games in terms of yards and points. They did finally step it up last week against a Titans team that has been offensively challenged the past month, so heading into Sunday night they have something to build on.
This has been a strange series, with the road team winning basically all the games the past three seasons. Last season the Bengals won in Pittsburgh in week four, while the Steelers won in OT on the final day of the season to knock the Bengals from the playoffs in Bill Cowher’s last game as Steelers coach. Earlier this year the Steelers won in Cincy, 24-13, building a 21-6 halftime lead and crusing from there. When the Steelers beat the Bengals, the formula is usually the same, run the ball, confuse the Bengals offense with blitzes, and force some turnovers. When Cincy wins, they usually hit a few big plays, find some room to run, and get Ben Roethlisberger to turn the ball over.
The Steelers O-line has to be a concern, as they have not done well in the pass blocking department the past few weeks, and that leaves Big Ben open to making mistakes. Last week he threw a bad pick to Joey Porter, and that is the type of thing the Bengals need to stay in the game. On offense, look for Carson to try and spread out the Steelers and throw downfield often. As long as the weather and field are both playing nice, the Bengals should be able to do some things on offense.
In the end, the Steelers will weather the storm though, and with Willie Parker having another big day, and Hines Ward doing what he does best, and that is catching some TD’s vs the Bengals, the Steelers will move to 9-3 heading into a huge showdown on 12/9 at New England.