This week’s Steelers-Bengals game is right up there with some of the other great battles in sports history; Ali vs. Frazier, Lakers vs. Celtics, Tyson vs. Holyfield’s ear, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Ike vs. Tina. Okay, maybe not. But it should still be a very good game.
The Steelers and Bengals find themselves tied at the top of the AFC North with identical 6-2 records. However, the Bengals have the advantage in the tie-breakers so far. The Bengals defeated the Steelers in their first meeting this season. The Bengals also have a better record within the division (4-0), having swept the Baltimore Ravens already, while the Steelers (1-1) have not faced the Ravens yet.
With that in mind, Sunday’s game becomes a must-win for the Steelers.
Personally, I have no doubt that the Steelers are going to beat the Bengals. Call me a doubter, but I just don’t think the Bengals are in the Steelers’ class, despite their earlier win.
If you’ll recall the Steelers game against the Bengals earlier this season, you’ll remember that it took a 4th quarter miracle by the Bengals (actually, it was a 4th quarter meltdown by the Steelers) to win the game.
The Steelers dominated the Bengals in every way in that game. They held Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to a mere 183 yards passing. Meanwhile, Big Ben threw for almost 300 yards and completed passes to 8 different receivers, including 102 yards to rookie receiver Mike Wallace.
Willie Parker rushed for 93 yards on 25 carries, as Rashard Mendenhall sat out due to being unprepared in practice.
The Steelers held the bengals to a mere 9 points through 3 quarters before surrendering 2 late touchdowns during a 4th quarter meltdown.
The Steelers domination was so complete that they held the ball a full 10 minutes more than the Bengals did during the course of the game.
Yet, a missed field goal by Jeff Reed combined with a dropped TD pass by Limas Sweed resulted in a 3 point loss in a game that the Steelers should have won.
Both teams remember what happened in the first game. The Bengals know that they got beat like a drum, despite what the final scoreboard said. The Steelers know that they lost a game that was within their grasp.
But that was then, and this is now. In this game, the Bengals are going to find that they are facing a much improved Steelers team.
The Steelers are on a roll, having won 5 games in a row. Troy Polamalu is back, having missed the first game against the Bengals due to injury. Polamalu’s return seems to have ended the Steelers string of 4th quarter meltdowns. The Steelers defense is now playing like the unit that we all know and love.
But perhaps the biggest difference in this game will be the Steelers’ running back. The Bengals faced Willie Parker in the first game, and he almost gained 100 yards on them. This time, the Bengals will be facing Rashard Mendenhall. They’ve never faced Mendenhall, but I think they are going to find that he’s a much greater challenge than Parker is.
Surely the Bengals watched Mendenhall run for 155 yards on Monday Night Football. They know that they are in for a tough game.
They also know that the rookie wide receiver who torched them for over 100 yards the first time they faced him has gotten even better. Their defensive backs can’t be looking forward to facing Mike Wallace again.
Those are some of the reasons why I am sure that the Steelers are going to win this game. If the Bengals were honest, they’d admit that those are exactly the same reasons why they know that they are going to lose.
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