Bengals-Steelers Week: Q&A With Steelers Blog “Nice Pick, Cowher”

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Every week, I’ll have a Q&A session with the Fansided blogger of the opposing team. This week, it’s Craig Gottschalk of the Steelers blog Nice Pick, Cowher. Check out his answers to my questions after the jump and you can see my answers to his questions here.

1. You guys have turned in some dominating performances at times (I actually attended the Steelers 38-17 win over the Titans), and lost a few big games against tough opponents. What alarms me is that after each of your two previous losses, the Steelers have come out guns blazing in the following week. After the tough loss to the Ravens last week, are we going to see a fired up Steelers team again?

"Absolutely.  Especially since the Bengals are a concern this year as being a contender for the AFC North.  The Steelers need to make sure that have a very solid divisional record if they want to have a chance at surpassing the Ravens or Bengals in the North or even a chance at gaining a wild card birth."

2. Defensive Lineman Casey Hampton recently said about the Bengals that he doesn’t think Steelers-Bengals is a rivalry. What’s your take? And what’s the consensus of most fans? I can tell you around Cincinnati, everyone will call it a rivalry.

"I think Cincy is in the unfortunate situation where there is such a more dominate rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers that any other potential rivalry matchup is overshadowed.  For Steelers fans, even with all the loathing and hatred for that team, there’s a certain amount of respect because of their talent level.  The Bengals have had so many low’s, that I think it’s hard for fans to treat that as some sort of rivalry. I don’t even think that Bengal fans consider this much of a ‘rivalry’ as much as it is hatred and bitterness over a team that knocked their star QB out of a game and thus out of the playoffs."

3. Shoot me straight here, how good is Ike Taylor? I’ve heard great things about him, especially his physicality. Where does he fit amongst other CBs around the league.

"To be honest, I didn’t really think Ike was worth all the trouble during the off season.  I thought he was pretty average considering our secondary continually got torched last season.  But he has certainly put his money where his playing is this season.  With the exception of one or two plays this year (especially the inside route he gave to Boldin on a crucial third down last week in that final drive), he has been great at shutting down the #1 receiver on each team.  He doesn’t get the INT’s because he’s not that kind of corner.  He plays very physically and is more about knocking that ball out with a swat of the arm or hitting the receiver.  I’m on that train right now, and I hope he continues to keep this level of play up.  With the way the D-line and LB’s play sometimes, the secondary has become instrumental in their wins."

4. Is the loss of LB Lamar Woodley a big one? Harrison played well in his absence last week.

"Woodley was/is a big loss.  He was hitting a hot streak the past few weeks.  He was getting two sacks a game.  Even though Harrison filled in nicely with his return, the Steelers miss Woodley’s current ability to get past the line on a regular basis.  I think it certainly hurt them during that final drive last Sunday – although LeBeau (and the secondary) is to blame more for that loss.  I think Harrison will continue to make a good comeback, but the blitzing schemes wil need to work well in order for them to put pressure on Dalton."

5. Other than the big names (Troy, Harrison), who is an underrated player on the defense that may show up big time o Sunday?

"I like Ziggy Hood.  I think he’s done an exceptional job at filling in for Aaron Smith.  He did last year as well.  He may not push linemen the way Smith did, but Hood is a bit faster off the snap.  There is an opportunity for him to have a good game against Livings and Whitworth and helping to stop Cedric Benson.  As with the other two D-linemen, it’s not a glorious position on the Steelers roster – their job is to help take up space and blockers so the the LB’s can secondary can get to the ball.  If the LB’s have a good day, more than likely, the D-line is having a good day."

Prediction?

"The Bengals have yet to face a complicated defense such as the Steelers’ schemes so far this season – especially rookie Dalton.  I think the Steelers D has a pretty good day against the offense and even gets a couple of turnovers.  Roethlisberger will continue to be productive and move the offense effectively.  And, I think this is the week the team gets over its Red Zone slump.  Steelers take it 27-13."