To start with the only intangible, injuries. A team simply can’t control injuries during a football game, and the Steelers have suffered a lot. What could be some of the cause for their lack of defense is the lingering calf problem for Troy Polamalu, as well as LaMarr Woodley’s hamstring injury. Although they do expect that Woodley will return for Sunday, whether he is fully healthy remains to be seen. Both of their main running backs are injured as well, which puts a lot of pressure on Big Ben, who has really been the one keeping this team alive so far. On the other side, the Bengals actually seem to finally be getting over their stint with the injury bug. Bernard Scott is out for the season, and Brian Leonard is day-to-day with his ribs. Those are two very key injuries, but their secondary has finally gotten most of its starting members back.
Then some of the things that ultimately decide any football game. The turnovers, for instance. If the Steelers lose in the injury category, they match up well in this statistic. They have a plus-2 differential, compared with the Bengal’s -7. That’s a very big difference this early in the season, and always plays a major factor.
Sacks. That wonderful thing for a defense that can simply turn a great drive into a punt. The Steelers have had such little success in the run game because of the failures of their offensive line. With RT Mike Adams making his first pro start, the Bengals could potentially win big in this area of the game. Big Ben has been sacked a lot this season, and the Bengals front-seven is one of the best in the NFL. In fact, that’s the only part of their defense that has kept them in some of their games. So I do expect the Bengals to win this battle.
But alas, a prediction? Is it that time already? My heart goes with the Bengals on this one, but that’s not what this article’s intention is. I’m not going with who I want to win, I’m saying who I think will win. But it’s a good thing for me that both of those come out to the same team. I think the Bengals win this game. The scores are often very unpredictable in matches between these two teams, but I’m going to say the Bengals 24-21. I think their front-seven, and even more specifically, their top-four, will carry the team on defense. With the offenses matching up very closely in this game, it’s going to come down to which defense shows more heart. And in front of a home-crowd desperately waiting for a win in Cincinnati, their defense gives them something to cheer for.