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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Breaking Down the Monday Night Match-Up

shawnbmaher
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When the Pittsburgh Steelers Have the Ball

The biggest focus of the game is going to be directly in the middle of the Steelers’ offense: specifically, the center position.

With All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey seeing a premature end to his season, the Bengals will be facing former Titan Fernando Velasco in the center of the Steelers’ offensive line. Velasco is a lumbering center who struggles in pass protection, explaining why hew was still available in free agency after the season started.

On passing downs, look for Geno Atkins and Devon Still, who looked good in limited snaps against Chicago, to rush over Velasco and disrupt Ben Roethlisberger and the timing that is so important in Todd Haley’s offense. In addition, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson need to display the confining pass rush that they have employed to cage mobile quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Roethlisberger in the past.

The Steelers are also struggling to establish the running game, and that will continue if Domata Peko does not disappear down the stretch like he did in Chicago and last season. Can Brandon Thompson continue to earn more snaps? He needs to if the Bengals’ defensive front does not want to disappear like they did last week.

Finally, this is an offense than can truly expose a linebacking corps that lost its best cover linebacker in Emmanuel Lamur. With the high-low combination crossing routes that are prevalent in Haley’s offense, Rey Maualuga could be in for a long day. He needs to display more patience and discipline in working the middle of the field, and Vontaze Burfict, who looked exponentially improved in pass coverage while picking off Jay Cutler, at full speed is also important.

Luckily for the Bengals, they will not have to face Big Ben’s favorite target in tight end Heath Miller, who continues to recover from a shredded knee he suffered against the Bengals last season.

The Verdict

The Bengals have every reason to win this game, but the Steelers are backed into a corner and really need a win. That is often when Roethlisberger, LeBeau and Mike Tomlin are at their most dangerous, so, while the Bengals may look to have the advantage in most categories, don’t rule out the intangibles in this rivalry matchup.

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