This is a classic “two teams headed in the opposite direction” game. The Bengals have lost four in a row, and things don’t get any easier with the AFC North co-leaders coming to town on Monday night. Pittsburgh, coming off a loss at New Orleans, is in a battle with Baltimore for the division lead. While the only thing consistent about the Bengals has been their inconsistency across the board, the Steelers have regained their M.O.: play stifling defense and run the ball on offense.
Keys for the Bengals
• Don’t turn the ball over. In sweeping Pittsburgh last season the Bengals didn’t give the Steelers any extra possessions. The Bengals are plus-4 in turnover margin this season, but they have hurt themselves with turnovers at poor times. Two of Carson Palmer’s five interceptions have been returned for touchdowns and a late pick in the red zone last week against Miami ended a shot at tying the game.
• Contain Ben Roethlisberger. The Bengals have had their issues with opposing quarterbacks making plays out of the pocket or just moving enough to keep plays alive, and there aren’t many better in the NFL than Roethlisberger when it comes to that. Roethlisberger threw key interceptions in both games last season. When the Bengals have beaten the Steelers, Roethlisberger mistakes are usually in the equation.
Keys for the Steelers
• Run the ball. The Cincinnati defense has been a disappointment this season, but the secondary remains its strength. Rashard Mendenhall is 10th in the NFL in rushing with 603 yards. During its four-game losing streak, Cincinnati is allowing opponents 30 rushing attempts and 133 yards per game.
• Don’t give up the big play. The Steelers have historically contained wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, but Terrell Owens is having an impact season. He has caught five touchdown passes in the last four games (yes, all losses) and is capable of taking over a game. The Steelers need to find a way to minimize his effect.
The Bengals got their first win against the Steelers in nine games at Paul Brown Stadium last year. Expect Pittsburgh to regain its dominance at its home away from home. Steelers 28-14.