I don’t know if the Bengals stadium is still called the Jungle but whatever; shooters shoot.
Last week, the Steelers really let one get away from them in Buffalo. Following a combined eight punts in the first quarter (and two more drops by Dionte), the Steelers broke through with a touchdown from Roethlisberger to Washington midway through the second quarter.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 14 point favorites against the Bengals this week on the DraftKings Sportsbook PA. Can they cover this steep spread?
Recap of Week 14
It started to look like the Steelers were going to seize control in a defensive game. However, the Bills got the ball and went right down the field and kicked a short field goal. On the next possession, Ben threw a pick six and the Bills took control of the game from there.
Brian Daboll was a problem for the Steelers defense, as he was able to call plays to maximize the Bills’ strengths and limit exposure and pressure on Josh Allen as the game went on. The Bills force fed Stefon Diggs, and took advantage of soft underneath coverage on Cole Beasley.
Before we start jumping to conclusions about the Steelers, consider a few things. For one, the Steelers offensive line was decimated by injuries early in the season. It’s made running the ball a challenge and forced the Steelers into a quick pass offense. Ben has the fewest sacks and fastest release in football, but it’s been by design, to take pressure off the line and maximize the Steelers’ talent at the receiver position.
Defensively, the Steelers’ linebacking corps has also been decimated. They are an 11-2 team on the season, but should realistically probably be closer to 9-4. It’s a testament to their execution, which has been great aside from all the pass catching drops.
For the Steelers, their playoff fate rests in the hands of their coaching staff and how they choose to scheme each game. It goes without saying that the receivers need to stop dropping balls, but the Steelers’ success is rooted in playing to their own strengths, which they have done a fine job doing at this point.
Steelers vs Bengals preview
The Cincinnati Bengals appear to have checked out. The loss of their rookie, franchise quarterback was a massive blow, but the Bengals still managed to cover in one of their last three games. They are pretty putrid offensively now, but the Bengals defense isn’t really that awful.
The Bengals are 28th in rushing yards allowed per game, 22nd in passing yards allowed per game, and 22nd in points allowed per game. Their DVOA shows they aren’t as bad as they appear, but the reality of the situation is, they might be the easiest matchup of the year for the Steelers.
The Steelers are reeling, coming off consecutive losses on a previously undefeated season. Drops, injuries, and Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles throwing the deep ball have been the biggest issues recently for Pittsburgh.
Earlier in the season, the Steelers buried the Bengals at home in a game that was simply two teams of a different class. This time around, the Bengals will be without their quarterback of the future. The Steelers are struggling with injuries of their own, but the Bengals don’t really present a threat to the AFC North leaders.
The Steelers are coming off two embarrassing losses. Sure, the Buffalo loss wasn’t that embarrassing. All it did was further reveal the Steelers have been more of a product of good chemistry and good fortune. You can guarantee the Steelers will be motivated to straighten things out and put the doubters to rest.
I think the Steelers will lean a little more heavily on the run early on in this game. The Bengals are a little better against the pass, so it makes more sense for the Steelers to attack on the ground and at least try to establish the run before turning to their bread and butter.
The word is out and the tape is extensive. The Steelers are a team reliant on a short passing attack. They can’t run the ball consistently, so what better time to re-establish credibility in the league than against a weak run defense late in the season?
I expect the Steelers to run heavily, balancing the offense more as the game goes on. I anticipate the Steelers leaning on their defense to give their offense plenty of time to impose their will on the lowly Bengals. This game has bounce-back written all over it. The Bengals have only scored more than ten points in one of their last five games. I don’t think they’ll exceed that number in this one either.