The Bengals really need this game to turn around their season as falling to 2-6 might be the death blow on their chances this year. The Steelers come to Cincinnati after a stinging loss last Sunday night against the Saints. The Steelers are also stinging from being swept last year by the Bengals in two games they clearly had a great shot at winning. This is the 3rd Steelers road game in a row and a division win would be a great way to end it. Below are what we deem to be 7 keys to the game for the Steelers to beat the Bengals in week 9 on Monday Night Football.
Laying Wood On Smith - The Bengals Andre Smith has now made two starts at right tackle and has faced the Falcons John Abraham and the Dolphins Cameron Wake in the process. On Monday night Smith goes up against Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Smith only allowed a sack to Abraham, but did allow two quarterback hits and three pressures on his quarterback Carson Palmer against Wake. Woodley could be in for a huge game and ought to be able to have his way with the bulky Smith. Woodley expects to get big money this offseason and must be able to have his way with tackles like Smith.
Running backs & Tight Ends & Screens! Oh, My! - Do I need to remind you how big of thorn this was last year against the Bengals? Well the Bengals now have a dangerous young tight end in Jermaine Gresham. He has started the past five games and has caught 29 passes this season along with being targeted 47 times. With Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens clearing out the underneath, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and Troy Polamalu all might draw coverage on Gresham throughout the game. The Saints showed last week how effective the screen game can be against the Steelers defense as well so running backs Cedric Benson and Brian Leonard need to be spied. I wonder if Potsie remembers Leonard?
Run Right At Them - Forget the trap blocking, forget the guards pulling as the Bengals are so banged up and soft on the ends and up the middle due to injuries to the line and linebackers it makes no sense to get fancy. The Bengals defense has allowed 4.5 yards per carry and allowed an average of 120.7 yards per game. Domata Peko has seen his better days inside at defensive tackle as well. Running well early will force the safeties up to help and loosen up the deep homerun shot to Mike Wallace.
Exploit Their Kick Coverage - The Bengals are getting a taste of what the Steelers had last year on kick coverages as they are ranked 30th in the NFL in that stat. Opponents have had an average start at almost the 30 yard line and the Bengals have allowed two returns into their territory over the past two weeks. Emmanuel Sanders has almost broken one all the way a few times and surely might have a shot of taking one back Monday night.
No Popcorn Popping - Terrell Owens has aged, but is still dangerous. Bryant McFadden might get quite a few snaps lined up against TO and must be prepared for the underneath stuff. I suspect Owens will try to lull whoever does cover him to sleep underneath to try set up that deep post that Owens is known for. It would be advised to give the corners as much help as possible over the top with the safeties.
Hot Reads, Get Your Hot Reads - Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace and Hines Ward have yet to get on the same page as far as hot route reads go. This is one part of the game the Steelers really miss Santonio Holmes in. Holmes would however miss it a few times himself and Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph made them pay the last time these two teams met, as he had a pick 6. Wallace has to become more than a one trick pony as Mike Tomlin likes to tease him. They all three need to understand what defense and coverages are being shown and adjust without communication. It should be natural and ought to be better by now.
Turn On ESPN - Seems the coaching staff upstairs might want to see if they can get the ESPN Monday Night football broadcast on the replay monitors instead of the home team video feed. They might get a better look at replays and see if a challenge is indeed called for or not. Read the Ed Bouchette blog post following the Saints game if I am over your head here. They can then have Jon Gruden at their service as an extra set of eyes.
Steelers Bengals Game Prediction - The Bengals might have thought they added Batman and Robin, but the team is playing more like an Ace and Gary cartoon. They have indeed been in several games this year and dropped a few they shouldn\'t of. They are also a pretty beat up team with not a ton of depth. There is no reason the Steelers should lose this game outside of beating themselves, which is indeed possible. Getting 3 points every trip in the redzone certainly falls in that category. The Steelers should be able to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and I think this will be the difference maker. I see a defensive touchdown for the Steelers late in this one on the way to an 11 point win.
Final Score: Steelers 31 Bengals 20