The Steelers loss to the Saints can either be a hiccup, or maybe the start of the team going backwards. For now, I am going with the hiccup, as I can’t see this team falling apart like some in past seasons. With that, here are this weeks keys and predictions for the Monday night battle with the Bengals.
1. Get to Palmer – The Steelers pass D the past few weeks hasn’t been playing all that well, as last week they allowed Drew Brees to pick them apart. While it will be up to Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden to hold down Dumb and Dumber (OchoCinco and Owens), the pass rush of the Steelers has to force Palmer into some mistakes and some poor throws. Harrison and Woodley need to have big games, and it could force Palmer into some bad decisions.
2. Back to the run game – Yes Ben is back, but the team needs to get back to rushing the ball with a bit more attitude. They have shown in spurts that Rashard Mendenhall can take over a game and have a big play, but they need to get back to that for a couple series or even a half. Mendenhall can dominate this game, and while I wouldn’t doubt that Ben hits a big play or two, the run game needs to control this game.
3. Start converting in the red zone – The red zone plays the past few weeks have been downright terrible. Last week they had three shots inside the one, and settled for a 19-yard field goal, which totally killed the teams momentum. They have a center (Pouncey) that is playing like a Pro Bowler in his first year, a running back that can take over games, and a QB that is big and tall and should be able to push for a yard in almost any play. So start doing it when the chance is there!
Prediction – Last weeks loss can quickly be pushed aside if the team rebounds vs the Bengals here on the road. This is the toughest stretch of the year, and a loss here can really start a downward spiral that concludes next week with the now 6-1 Patriots in another prime-time test. The good thing is the Steelers are the better team, and as long as they don’t make mistakes early, give the crowd a reason to be in the game, and play the Bengals in Cincy like they have in the past, minus 2009, they should be able to control this game. Steelers 27 Cincinnati 14