Hritz: Steelers At Bengals Preview And Prediction – Week 2

By Jeremy Hritz

Time to move on from the awful play of a week ago against the Tennessee Titans and to focus on the imminent matchup against the AFC North favorites, Cincinnati Bengals. While conventional wisdom says the Pittsburgh Steelers will have a difficult time competing in Cincy based on their abysmal performance in week one, it’s difficult to envision the Steelers playing poorly for two weeks in a row.

However, if the Steelers are going to be competitive and have a chance to secure a victory, they are going to have to give a much better effort, and against a Bengals team with a formidable defensive unit and an excellent collection of skill players on offense, an effort similar to the one last week in Pittsburgh would result in a blowout.

It is no secret that the Bengals have an outstanding defensive line, highlighted by Geno Atkins, who gave David DeCastro fits in Pittsburgh last year. Throw in defensive end Michael Johnson who racked up 11.5 sacks last season, and the questionable Steelers offensive line will have its hands full in protecting Ben Roethlisberger, who the team cannot afford to lose to injury.

It would be foolish not to mention James Harrison and the new dimension that he adds to the Bengals defense. Both Harrison and the Steelers have said all of the right things this week in regards to his departure but to say that he would love nothing more than to dominate against his former team would be foolish. We know how hard Harrison plays, and with extra motivation, it could make for an even rougher outing for the shaky Steelers offensive line. The question is how effective can Harrison be at 35 years old after innumerable injuries and surgeries?

Against the Chicago Bears in week one, the Bengals defense wasn’t dominant, as they gave up 323 total yards and failed to record a sack of Jay Cutler, who was sacked 38 times in 15 games in 2012 behind a soft offensive line. But at home in prime time, the Bengals defense will be looking to assert itself as the premier group in the AFC North.

Offensively, the Bengals feature one of the best receivers in football in A.J. Green, who had an explosive game last week, catching nine balls for 162 yards and two touchdowns, including one for 45 yards. Ike Taylor will shoulder the task of shutting Green down, and he has shown in previous contests that he can do so. The area of concern is William Gay who will be starting in place of Cortez Allen, and though he played well last week, his history as a starter in Pittsburgh is well documented. It will be more important than ever for the Steelers to generate a pass rush to keep Gay from being exposed in coverage.

Andy Dalton had a decent outing against the Bears last week, but he still threw two interceptions. His most recent performance against the Steelers in Pittsburgh last December resulted in 278 passing yards, two picks, and a pounding as he was sacked six times. Regardless of his less than stellar play, the Bengals still earned the win by a score of 13-10 and secured another playoff berth, while they eliminated the Steelers from contention.

What to Expect…

The Steelers really didn’t give many reasons for confidence heading into the game against the Bengals, and nobody really believes that the Steelers have a realistic chance of winning, nor should they.

The offensive line has been pitiful, as have been the running backs, and the turnover issues from 2012 seemed to have carried over into this new year. When Roethlisberger had protection, there were tiny glimpses into what the passing game could be, though it was more methodical than it was explosive. Overall, the offense played about as bad as an offense can play.

The defense on the other hand, played well, and despite being on the field for over 34 minutes, only gave up 229 yards, and though they didn’t make any splash plays or harass Jake Locker, they appear to be primed for another solid year. With Jarvis Jones getting more snaps, and with Shamarko Thomas getting some opportunities due to the injury to Allen, the defensive youngsters will have an opportunity to make some early contributions.

Things can only get better for the Steelers, and it’s hard to imagine them playing below the line two weeks in a row. But will improvement be enough to match the intensity of an up-and-coming team looking to send a message on a Monday Night?

It would be foolish to pick the Steelers against the Bengals on the road, right?

Keep Your Eyes On…

The Steelers offensive line. If this unit can come together and allow the offense to sustain a few drives and give their defense a break, it will go a long way in putting the Steelers in a position to win. It’s a big if, especially with a newly acquired center in Fernando Velasco starting, and with two tackles that have been seriously disappointing. Ultimately, the performance of this unit early on will be an indicator of which direction this game is headed.

Final Prediction

In my season prediction, I forecasted the Steelers losing this game, but I am going back on my word. Roethlisberger is 14-5 all-time against the Bengals, and putting too much stock in last week’s game seems like a mistake, as the Steelers are a more talented group than what than what they put on display last weekend.

The Steelers show that week one was an anomaly, and they get the first win of the season in a close game.

Steelers win.

Steelers 26, Bengals 20

  • Amuzon12

    I hope most of the pre-season was an anomaly too.
    Go Steelers!

  • treeher

    26 points from the Steelers? Hmmm.

  • dgh57

    Despite how we played last week and all the injuries, I think we play better this week in that it’s on national tv and a division foe. I agree, time of possession needs to be in our favor to keep their offense off the field as their receivers scare me the most in this game, especially with no Cortez Allen.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    I hate to say it, but there is little to hope for in this match up. Bengals will win 31-13. And Steelers will suffer two more serious injuries to starters.


    No doubt the Steeler OFC should look better this game, but against a better DL on the road, I’m not expecting them to run the ball much better…Maybe that changes tonight, but JH spent a fair amount of time in coverage in the pre-season…CIN best pass rush guys are actually inside so maybe Ben gets more time, but 21 points is the max either OFC will score.

    I’m hoping that Dalton hasn’t figured out the PIT DEF yet, but I’m not liking our chances for a win unless they get a turnover, and a short field.

  • Ahmad

    All I’m concerned about is walking out of Paul Brown Stadium with a W. I could honestly care less how it comes as long as we get one.

  • steelirish33

    The Steelers O line has not been able to move anybody in the preseason and were ate up by a no name D line from Tennessee. What are they going to do against one of the best D lines in all of the NFL? Zero confidence in them. If, and thats a big if, They somehow can get any kind of running game going, then it may be a game. I just dont see it. Hope Im dead wrong. Cincy 27-13.

  • Callentown

    Ha, I just realized you picked the exact same score for this game that I just posted on another article.

    In my honest opinion, the only thing the Steelers can do right on offense at this point, is NOT lose Ben to injury yet. It’s going to happen, just a matter of when. I hope it’s later than sooner.

  • Callentown

    “…it’s difficult to envision the Steelers playing poorly two weeks in a row.”

    See, I think that’s the difference right now. We have always bounced back. But this doesn’t look the same. This looks like we will be putting together multiple games where the team is unable to compete, can’t gain turnovers, and lose important players to injury.

    I HOPE I’m wrong, but . . . just doesn’t look good.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Well there’s always the “what ifs”, but things look bleak for this game and in truth, this season.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    The jury is IN on Andy Dalton…and he stinks. Steelers 16, Bengals 12

  • Soliciting Steelers

    If I see a Steelers win, I’ll see it as a 9-6 defense slugfest….26 pts is asking a lot first game back from multiple season-ending injuries

  • cencalsteeler

    A couple of points of positivity. The Steelers actually looked good on the first drive against Tennessee. The injury to Pouncey was a mental blow. The fumble by the end zone poured salt on their open wound caused by Pouncey’s injury. The special teams improved since preseason. Penalties were down from the preseason. Defense looked good. Yesterday, Tennessee looked good and seems to be a legit team. That said, I’m looking for some improved mental toughness which will breed a more confident team.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I had the Steelers pegged to lose this one before the start of the season and I see nothing ATM that would change my mind. The Steelers ought to make it close as their defense is still stellar but the offense will still be our downfall as there is too many moving parts. I see a close 17-14 or 13-10 lose. I hope I am wrong but until we see some substance from them I am not sure where else to go with it.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The only way I could see that against a good Bengals defense would be a ST touchdown and a defensive touchdown then MAYBE we get 26 points.

  • Shawn S.

    All good points. I thought the same thing about Tennessee. They are no joke.

  • Shawn S.

    I look for Troy Polamalu, who was a beast last week, to make an early splash play under the prime time lights, and be inside Dalton’s head the rest of the game. Velasco did well against the Bengals I the pre-season, and has something to prove now, so he neutralizes the D line. Redman redeems himself and goes for 105 yards (no fumbles). Steelers win 21-17.

  • Pete

    I wish I could agree but…I have yet to see the Steelers put together a run game which tells me the O line is a shambles. Minus Pouncey against that front 7 makes for a long night. If the Bengals know Ben has to pass forget it. I can’t see the Steelers coming away from this one with a win unless Ben is magical.

  • Rob H

    Although I believe they can make this a game, I just can’t bring myself to predict a win. I think the wins start at home on Sunday, against a Chicago team that is primed for a letdown after two close emotional wins.