Oct 21, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes the ball during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers defeated the Bengals 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
This game could go either way for two reasons. On the one had, the Bengals’ downfall against the Steelers the first time around was in large part due to the thumbs coverage by Ike Taylor on A.J. Green. The Steelers will undoubtedly bracket him again this time around, but Green will have a much easier time when not facing a Taylor/Ryan Clark combination. With a safety rolled over to A.J. Green, that will open up Jermaine Gresham. The biggest question will be on both sides’ running game. Can the Steelers run all over the Bengals again, and will the Bengals’ offensive line be able to win the battle up front? The Bengals are superior in the trenches and their secondary is playing much better than it was the last time around. Health Miller could be dangerous, but other than that the biggest threat is Dick LeBeau against Andy Dalton. Between a hostile environment in Pittsburgh and Dalton’s struggles against the zone blitz, it could be close, but the Steelers just will not be able to overcome the loss of both Taylor and right tackle Mike Adams, even as disappointing as he has been.
Bengals 24, Steelers 21
The Bengal offense has struggled against Pittsburgh during the Dalton era, but the banged up Steeler secondary provides a great opportunity for Cincinnati to turn that around. I’ve gone back and forth on picking a winner all week. Pittsburgh hasn’t looked good the last several weeks, but very few teams forced to play their third string quarterback for an extended period will look good. (How big does the Charlie Batch-led win over Baltimore look now for the Steelers?). Cincinnati has won five of six while playing a Charmin-soft schedule. As much as I want to, it’s just too hard to pick the Bengals to win at Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 21.
The Bengals will make a game of things and keep it close. Big Ben will escape a sack and make a big play late, probably to Heath Miller. AJ Green will have a good day but not enough.
Steelers win 24-20
This is Andy Dalton’s opportunity to show he’s a true franchise quarterback and get his signature win. Carson Palmer won this game in a very similar scenario in 2005, and again in 2009. He is the key to a Bengals victory today. He’s 10-5 on the road, and today will likely be the toughest road environment he’ll have ever played in. With a banged-up Steelers secondary, there’s really no excuse for him not to have a good game today.