Aug 17, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker James Harrison (92) prior to a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
With Foote, I don’t believe this is close. With their leader in the middle (Foote) out for the year and Jarvis Jones’ health in question, I have to give the Bengals the slightest edge simply because I believe Vontaze Burfict and James Harrison offer more big play potential than the Steelers LBs.
The Bengals have 4 CBs (Hall, Newman, Jones, Kirkpatrick) that would likely all start above the 2 starters in Pittsburgh (Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen) and all 4 should be able to cover Brown and Sanders with little help. Taylor and Allen will need lots of help on Green, leaving the other 1-on-1 with Sanu or Jones, a matchup the Bengals should be able to exploit.
The Steelers have a clear edge at the safety position. Polamalu and Clark make up the best safety duo in the league. While Reggie Nelson is a good free safety and could be considered comparable to Ryan Clark, whoever starts next to Nelson is a borderline NFL starter at best and certainly can’t hold a candle to Polamalu.
If both are healthy, this is probably a push. With Suisham nursing a hamstring injury, the Steelers will either play Suisham with an iffy hamstring, or Cinnamon Shayne Graham. No matter which way the Steelers go, it will give Nugent and the Bengals an edge in the kicking game.
After last week’s debacle, I may revert back to my default rule…every team has the coaching advantage over the Bengals. The Steelers especially. Steelers fans may be getting antsy with Tomlin, but Steelers fans don’t have any clue what a “bad” coach is. Tomlin may be coming off a down year and a disappointing week 1, but Lewis is coming off a disappointing career (at least when it comes to big games). Tomlin has 1 Super Bowl ring and 1 Super Bowl appearance. Lewis has 0 playoff wins in 4 tries, has been questioned for years about his ability to prepare his players for big games, and seems to be overwhelmed himself by the timeout and replay process.