In their first meeting since the AFC Wild-Card Playoff, the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cincinnati Bengals in the home opener for the Black and Gold.
What: Cincinnati Bengals 1-0 at Pittsburgh Steelers 1-0
Where: Heinz Field Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When: Sunday September 18th, 2016 1pm Eastern kickoff
Weather: 80% chance of thunderstorms with a high of 76 degrees.
Line: Steelers -3
TV: CBS Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts and Evan Washburn on the sidelines.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Rabble TV: After least week’s technical issues, I’m going solo and things should roll well. Check out the broadcast by clicking the link!
Key Injuries: CIN: Tyler Eifert OUT PIT: Ryan Shazier and Markus Wheaton are both listed “questionable.” Cody Wallace, Roosevelt Nix and Senquez Golson are OUT
2016 NFL Ranks: Bengals’ Offense: Overall 12th Rushing 29th Passing 8th. Bengals’ Defense: Overall 13th Rushing 27th Passing 8th… Steelers’ Offense: Overall 7th Rushing 8th Passing 12th. Steelers’ Defense: Overall 21st Rushing 3rd Passing 25th (Stats updated following TNF)
AFC North Rankings: Baltimore 1-0, Cincinnati 1-0, Pittsburgh 1-0, Cleveland 0-1
What You Need to Know: It may be week two but this is already an important AFC North showdown with each team looking for a 2-0 start and a game in hand in the division…. Since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the Steelers are 13-2 in home openers… For the 70th time in his career, Ben Roethlisberger had a passer rating above 100. The Steelers are 63-7 in those games… Sean Davis became the first rookie defensive back to start for the Steelers since Chad Scott in 1997.
What’s at Stake: A 1-0 start goes a long way as most teams who start 1-0 increase their chances of making the postseason significantly.
All-Time Series: Steelers lead 56-35 and are 30-16 at home. The Steelers are just 9-6 at home against the Bengals in their last 15 meetings.
Series Highs: Passing: PIT Ben Roethlisberger 386 yards 2005, CIN Jon Kitna 411 yards 2001… Rushing: PIT Le’Veon Bell 185 yards 2014, CIN James Brooks 133 yards 1985… Receiving: PIT Lynn Swann 192 yards 1979, CIN A.J. Green 224 yards 2014
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
Interior Pressure in Mr. Dalton’s Lap. Last week, former Steeler Steve McLendon was part of a Jets’ D that had seven sacks against the Bengals. A lot of that pressure came from right over the center and that should fall right into the Steelers’ wheelhouse. With the power of Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward combined with gap-shooting quickness of Javon Hargrave, I see no reason why the Steelers can’t create problems in the face of Andy Dalton. Don’t forget too that the Steelers did very little blitzing last week and I expect that to change as well.
Stay Aggressive, But Be Smart on Offense. The last thing you want to do after being so aggressive (and successful) with your offense last week is talk your foot off the gas this week. I expect the approach to remain the same Sunday but with an exception. The Bengals typically like to keep those two safeties up high in order to limit deep balls and keep plays in front of them. With Martavis Bryant gone, will they continue to do that? I think they will and that means Ben Roethlisberger has to be smart and patient. Let the rushing attack pull those safeties up then take your shots.
Don’t Worry About Stopping A.J. Green. As the hold saying goes, “You can’t stop him you can only hope the contain him.” Green is one of the top receivers in the entire NFL. He’s going to make plays but the Steelers can limit the splash plays he makes. Look for Ross Cockrell, William Gay and perhaps Justin Gilbert to play off as normal, surrendering those out routes and five yard stops. They have to make sure they tackle well however. Depending upon how the game unfolds, I can see Keith Butler perhaps getting a little more aggressive but the plan will no doubt to make Andy Dalton find big plays elsewhere.
Prediction: Last week, I relied on the recent history of Steelers’ season openers and took Washington to win 23-20. Ya… OK I deserve the boos and hisses. The Bengals have played well in Pittsburgh over the last 15 years but if I rely on that I’m doing the same thing I did last week right? With rain expected, turnovers could play a role but I think the Steelers move to 2-0 on the season.
Steelers 27 Bengals 20