Here’s a little preview piece that I wrote for Fansided’s Steelers blog over at nicepickcowher.com. Thought I’d repost my thoughts on the Bengals-Steelers game here. I think the Bengals offense can get going this week, but I’m nervous about our injury-ridden secondary!
When the Bengals pass:
I’m a bit worried that Dalton may fall prey to making the same mistakes he made last game against the Steelers. He threw a few interceptions when the ball shouldn’t have been thrown, and seemed to have major miscommunications with WR Andre Caldwell. This game, AJ Green is back from his hyperextended knee (which kept him out for 2 and a half quarters more or less against the Steelers) and I feel like Dalton will definitely be better with his favorite target on the field again. Green and Dalton have a symbiotic relationship, if that makes sense. They make each other better, and they improve every week. Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden also needs to get TE Jermaine Gresham more involved in the passing attack. Gresham plays better when he’s split outside, and some games Gresham tends to disappear. WR Jerome Simpson and WR Andre Caldwell need to limit their drops and play smart. Finally, the offensive line has proven to be better at pass blocking than run-blocking, but they’ll face a big test this week when LB Lamar Woodley returns to the field this week for the Steelers.
When the Bengals run:
RB Cedric Benson had a huge week last week against the Cleveland Browns. The Offensive Line blocked extremely well for the most part, and Benson looked the best he’s looked all season, making nice cuts and juking through the second level. Even TE Jermaine Gresham had a great day blocking the edge for his runningback, where Gresham has historically been inconsistent. Of course, that was against the Browns, whom everyone runs over. The Bengals now face the 6th ranked rush defense. OC Jay Gruden will need to use a heavy dose of running plays to keep the Steelers defense honest, and Benson needs to be productive with these carries. I’m going to guess that Benson gets 70 yards and about 15 carries with a possible goalline touchdown. He’ll have 3ish receptions as well, as the Bengals finally used him in the passing attack last week too, and that should continue
When the Steelers run:
The Steelers running game has been below average this year. Mendenhall hasn’t been productive and the line has failed at times. The Bengals running defense is the strength of the defense, and they’ve held almost all runningbacks in check this season. Occasionally, the safeties will miss a tackle and allow a big run, but that is the only real way I say Mendenhall amassing over 100 yards today. There are a few injuries to DT Domata Peko and DT Pat Sims, but the rest of the D-line is versatile enough to step up, should these two miss any time.
When the Steelers pass:
This is the matchup that scares me the most. Roethlisberger is, in my opinion, the best quarterback that the Bengals have faced and will face all year. Last time, the Bengals cornerbacks gave the Steelers wide receivers an incredible amount of cushion, which Roethlisberger quickly recognized and through short passes all day. He marched down the field with the Bengals secondary too scared of the deep threat to come up and contest the quick ten-yard first down. That meant that the Steelers were able to convert a huge EIGHTEEN passing first downs. Jeez… What scares me even more is that this passing performance was against the Bengals top two corners, Leon Hall and Nate Clements. Now, Hall is out for the year and Clements is questionable to play. That leaves Adam Jones and Kelly Jennings to take over the starting cornerback positions. Big Ben, even with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, may be able to pick apart the Bengals D all day today, and that scares me. Hopefully, the injury creates some inaccuracy, which our secondary can capitalize on and convert into interceptions.