Both the Steelers and Bengals head into the Sunday match-up at Paul Brown Stadium at 1-1 and one game back to the Baltimore Ravens. This is the first division game for either team in the 2009 season. Despite being without strong safety Troy Polamalu, the Steelers are relatively healthy. Backup strong safety Tyrone Carter, who was victimized for both of the Chicago Bears touchdowns, has recovered from his thigh injury and should start. Wide receiver Limas Sweed should be back from his one game absence as well.
On offense the Steelers running game must build on it\’s week 2 performance against the Bears. Second year running back Rashard Mendenhall will likely earn more carries this week, but Willie Parker will start. Parker has had some of his better games against the Bengals and needs to get off to a quick start. If the running game can get going early, it can take some pressure it will easily open up the passing game against the Bengals 16th ranked pass defense. On passing downs, left tackle Max Starks must hold off Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, who leads the league with 7 sacks in just 2 games. In addition, to Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, the Steelers need to exploit the one on one match-ups outside by getting the ball to either Mike Wallace or Sweed. They should have several opportunities for big plays over the top if the running game works early.
On defense, the Steelers need to bottle up Bengals running back Cedric Benson who has amassed 217 yards in 2 games with a 4.3 average. They also must do so with only the front seven as the secondary will have their hands full with the Bengals receivers. Getting pressure this week on quarterback Carson Palmer is a must. The Steelers only have 3 sacks on the year and must do a better job hurrying the quarterback. If Palmer is given too much time, he will find the holes in the secondary, especially in the form of safety Carter. Ike Taylor will draw most of the daily coverage on Chad Ochocinco and he and William Gay need strong one-on-one performances.
This game could be an offensive fireworks show as both teams should be able to move the ball. Big plays will be the difference and they could come on special teams. The Bengals and their fans have been licking their lips for this game, but they will likely be disappointed once again. The Steelers are the better team and will win and cover.
Prediction: Steelers 27 Bengals 21