Sunday’s upcoming tilt between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers is more than just a rivalry game.
“We don’t like them, they don’t like us.”
These were the words of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman David DeCastro, after the November 1 game. Steelers week always brings out good ole’ fashioned AFC North football. The rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers is one of the NFL’s best rivalries. This game, however, is much more than a division rivalry game. Both teams have a lot to gain with a win on Sunday. The Bengals have the opportunity to clinch the AFC North and cling onto their position atop the AFC Standings. The Steelers are on the outside looking in at 7-5, and a loss could all but close the door on their playoff hopes.
Now that the talk about Andy Dalton’s hair has settled down, people can start to look at his other tangibles and intangibles of being an NFL quarterback. This season has been fun. Dalton has been a big part of that. He’s always been mature as a person, but now he’s matured as a quarterback. He’s been confident, concise, and a leader. This Steelers defensive is one that you bit with brains. Pittsburgh blitzes on 40% of defensive snaps. Dalton has been instrumental in beating blitzes this year. Dalton has been up-and-down when it comes to facing pressure, but it’s when pressure has gotten to Dalton that the Bengals have struggled on offense. The Cardinals and Texans sacked Dalton four times each in the Bengals’ two losses of the season, so keeping Dalton upright will be critical on Sunday.
Dalton’s counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, has been having a great season himself. He’s found new treasures in Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, and DeAngelo Williams. The Steelers offense is rolling and it has an abundance of playmakers out wide. Roethlisberger looked rusty in the first matchup as he rushed back from injury, but he’s healthy now. It was evident in the Steelers’ 45-10 whooping of the Indianapolis Colts. The Bengals are beat up in the secondary and could be without Adam Jones. The trio of Dre Kirkpatrick, Josh Shaw, and Leon Hall will be given the task of slowing down Antonio Brown, Wheaton, and Bryant of the Steelers. That’s a tall task for any corner in the league, but for Cincinnati’s depleted secondary, it will take a miracle to stop the Steelers’ high-flying offense.
The good news for the Bengals beat up secondary is that the Bengals defensive line is playing great. Geno Atkins has been a force to be reckoned with, and will be crucial in forcing Roethlisberger to step up in the pocket for Carlos Dunlap and/or Michael Johnson, or forcing an errant throw. Vontaze Burfict will be the center of attention for the Steelers offensive line. Burfict made a tackle on Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell in the first matchup that resulted in a torn MCL. Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster, and David DeCastro were all very verbal suggesting the hit was dirty.
This game will be frustrating at times. This game will be a slobber knocker. This game will be weird. Games between these two teams always are. The Bengals will face adversity and probably controversy. They will need to overcome some things. They did it in the first game against the Steelers when Dalton threw an interception in the end zone. He followed it up with a game-winning touchdown pass to A.J. Green. They’ve been able to overcome adversity all season. I’ve sensed it, I’ve felt, I see it: this Bengals team is different. Let’s win the division.
Let’s go 11-2.
Let’s keep the #1 seed.
Let’s beat Pittsburgh.