This weekend, the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Cincinnati, Ohio to play the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers enter the game atop the AFC North with a 4-1 record. The Bengals are in last place at 0-6. The Bengals have the worst record in the NFL, 1/2 game behind the 0-5 Detroit Lions.
The Steelers lead the all-time regular season series against the Bengals 45-30. The Bengals’ last win was in 2006 at Heinz Field.
The Steelers have defeated the Bengals the last 7 times they’ve traveled to Cincinnati. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is from Findlay, OH is a perfect 10-0 in the state of Ohio (5-0 versus Bengal, 5-0 versus Browns).
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is a perfect 2-0 versus the Bengals.
Although we are only 7 weeks into the season, Bengals fans may already be giving up hope. Rumor has it that thousands of tickets are available for this match-up of division rivals. Of course, that is great news for Steeler Nation, who loves to take over opponents’ stadiums. All indications are that black and gold should be prominent in the crowd on Sunday.
The 0-6 start is the longest losing streak of head coach Marvin Lewis’ career, and some say that his job may be in jeopardy. Interestingly, the last Bengals head coach to start the season 0-6 was current Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau.
The Bengals futility begins on offense. With weapons like Carson Palmer, Chad Ocho Cinco, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals should be an offensive juggernaut. Yet, they are dead last in the NFL in total offense.
The Bengals’ passing offense, which is their strength, is ranked 27th in the NFL, and only averages 155.7 yards per game. By contrast, the Steelers, a run-oriented offense, are averaging 177.4 passing yards per game.
Chad Johnson only has 19 receptions this year in the Bengals’ pass-happy offense. Meanwhile, T.J. Houshmandzadeh has twice as many receptions with 38. Amazingly, Johnson has fewer reception yards than both Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, both of whom play in the Steelers’ conservative, run-oriented offense. Johnson says that he is being punished for negative comments that he made during the offseason.
The Bengals passing offense won’t be helped by the fact that Carson Palmer will miss his third start in four weeks due to an injury to his right elbow. His backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the start. Fitzpatrick has been sacked 8 times in 2 starts, and is likely to receive heavy doses of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley on Sunday.
The bengals’ rushing offense is even worse than their passing offense. They are ranked next to last in the NFL in rushing, averaging only 72.2 rushing yards per game. leading rusher Chris Perry is averaging only 2.6 yards per carry. Moreover, the Bengals’ second leading rusher is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Their third leading rusher is Carson Palmer. No wonder their rushing attack is so futile.
As if things couldn’t get any worse for the Bengals, they are going to have to face the Steelers #2 ranked defense. The Steelers defense is only allowing 66.8 rushing yards per game. So the Bengals already paltry rushing average is likely to go even lower.
On offense, the Steelers were preparing to welcome back starting running back Willie Parker this week. However, Parker re-injured his knee during practice, and probably won’t play on Sunday. Nevertheless, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers “O” should have little trouble with the Bengals’ defense.
The Bengals defense allows a whopping 156.8 rushing yards per game. This will play to the Steelers’ strength. Even with Parker out, the Steelers should have success running against the Bengals.
Surprisingly, the Bengals pass defense is very good. They are ranked #4 in the NFL, right behind the Steelers. They have an attacking defense that really tries to get after the quarterback. The Bengals are in the top 10 in the NFL in blitz frequency. Despite their frequent blitzes, the Bengals have been unable to convert their pass rush into actual sacks. The team has only 5 sacks on the year. By contrast, Steelers linebacker James Harrison has 6.5 sacks all by himself, and LaMarr Woodley has 5.5 sacks.
The one bright spot for the Bengals is that their kick returner, Glenn Holt, leads the NFL in kickoff return yards. However, that statistic is misleading. Holt is actually not even in the top 15 in the NFL in yards per kickoff return. His statistics are due to the fact that he has the highest number of kickoff return attempts in the NFL. That is the one statistic that a team DOES NOT want to lead the league in. If your team is getting more opportunities to return kickoffs than any other team in the league, it is usually because your defense is allowing more touchdowns than any other team in the NFL. Ouch!
I predict an easy Steelers win, with a final score of 24-7.
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