There have been few who have forgotten last year's National Football League playoff game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only was it a close score at the end of it all, but what is still on people's minds is the hard hits, the taunts and the indiscipline that was on display that night in January. This Sunday, the two teams square off again at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA for what will most likely be another memorable game.
The Bengals look for a better start
In their first game of the season, against the New York Jets, it took the Bengals a long time to truly find their rhythm. Even though they managed to eek out the win, a last minute field goal by Mike Nugent, there were definitely concerns on how many points their defense managed to concede. AJ Green had a big day last time out, picking up a touchdown and 180 receiving yards, and torching Darrelle Revis at the same time. Andy Dalton was also able to make the necessary big plays needed to bring the Bengals back into the game.
The running game, however, was not good. Between starting running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Benard, the two managed only a combined 56 yards in rushing yards. The Jets defense is good but to only get that many rushing yards will be something the Bengals will want to correct before they face the Steelers.
The defense, as previously mentioned will not want a repeat of their performance against the Jets. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins got the only sack of the day for the Bengals while corner back Josh Shaw managed to get his first interception of the season. They also gave the Jets the opportunity to get 22 first downs, 11 passing and eight rushing but did well in keeping the third point conversion rate of the Jets below 50%. Against a Steelers offense that is clearly firing on all cylinders even with injuries, the Bengals will have to do a much better job of preventing first down conversions as Pittsburgh will most likely make more of those than the jets did.
The Steelers offense is red hot
After a stellar 2015, the Steelers offense led by quarter back Ben Roethlisberger, made short work on Monday night's opponents, the Washington Redskins. With injuries ruling out Marcus Wheaton and Martyvius Bryant, and suspension stopping Le'Veon Bell from suiting up, Pittsburgh just kept on rolling. Antonio Brown was unstoppable, picking up two touchdowns and 126 receiving yards, and ow well on his way to winning the bet he made with New York Jets' Brandon Marshall. Wide receiver Eli Rogers, who worked his way up the Steelers depth chart, partnered Brown well and caught a touchdown pass of his own, his first in the NFL.
The key to the offense though, was the play of DeAngelo Williams who continues to defy his age and run like a young running back. Williams had a big night, getting two touchdowns of his own and rushing for 143 yards. All of these offensive weapons will be primed and ready to go against Cincinnati. With how they looked on Monday night, expect the Steelers offense to come up big this weekend as well.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers defense did well to cover for their injuries and kept the Redskins to just 19 points overall. An injury to Ryan Shazier is not what the Steelers wanted going into this divisional game but the line backer seemed to have some practice this week and may just feature on Sunday as well. The Steelers will also welcome back a few big players in the secondary against the Bengals which will surely help what many people see as the Steelers weakness. Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward will be a big assest for the Pittsburgh defense and seasoned line backer James Harrison continues to come up with plays.
Both teams will want to prove that the playoff game was not their best performance. The Bengals will need to show their discipline while the Steelers will want to show that with a fit Roethlisberger, the Bengals are no match for them. Expect another tough match from both sides and it may just come down to which team holds their discipline the best. As the Steelers are at home on Sunday, they will be the favourite to pick up another win against the Bengals but it will be a close one.
Cincinnati Bengals 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 27.
The Bengals will be without defensive tackle Pat Sims (ankle), offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (NIR), wide receiver James Wright (knee), defensive end Carlos Dunlap (shoulder/toe) and tight end Tyler Eifert (ankle). Both corner backs, Adam Jones and Darqueze Denard were in full practice this week and look set to return.
For the Steelers, corner back Senquez Golson (foot), full back Roosevelt Nix (back) and centre Cody Wallace (knee) look set to miss out again this week. Wide receiver Marcus Wheaton was in full practice this week and will likely see time this weekend as well.
The game is scheduled to start at 1:00 PM Eastern Time and will be broadcast nationally on CBS.