When The Bengals play the Steelers, it’s always a drama-filled battle. But, with a sense of renewed focus, Sunday could be different.
It’s that time again. Cats and dogs living together in harmony. Yes, it’s Steelers Week in Cincinnati. In the first installment of the annual saga, Pittsburgh was able to embarrass the Bengals 24-16. Lewis and Co. were in the game until the last few minutes. Tyler Boyd fumbled the ball at the Steelers 33-yard line. Viewing the replay at various speeds, Boyd’s knee appeared to be down. But, the game was at Heinz Field. So…( Kanye shrug).
Getting some good ol’ home cooking at Paul Brown Stadium would be great. But, that’s not all the Bengals will need to beat the Steelers. Pittsburgh is coming into town with a chip on their shoulder and a point to prove. If Cincinnati wants to make the playoffs, this is a must-win game that has to be played like a primetime contest.
Here’s a look at what the Bengals need to do.
Playoff Level Focus
Yes, the Bengals are mathematically still in the hunt for a postseason berth. But, in order to punch their ticket, they have to show up. Too many times, Marvin Lewis has not prepared his team for the “big games” that matter. Even if the battle was flexed from Sunday Night Football to the afternoon, it’s still a big deal. Most of the east and west coast will feature the Bengals at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.
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Earlier in the week, the Bengals fired longtime kicker Mike Nugent. Parting ways with the struggling Nugent gave the appearance that things may be changing down at PBS. But, the effects have to be far-reaching. Getting the troops fired up for Pittsburgh should be no problem. Getting them to have a killer instinct and not come out flat will be the issue.
Even if the Bengals miss the postseason, beating the Steelers could be the highlight of a squandered season.
The Burfict Storm
No matchup with Pittsburgh would be complete without some type of drama. But, it seems like this year’s finale may not include the antics of Vontaze Burfict. So far, Burfict has made good on his promise to clean up his act.
The only thing opponents are getting from Burfict is hard knocks. Afterward, he’s helping them up to knock them down again. No. 55 has been able to temper his emotions and play at a high level. It’s going to be a matter of not falling into the chippy shoves and trash talk after plays.
The Steelers will purposely try to push Burfict over the edge. But, if this game is going to be a preview of what the Cincinnati can do in the playoffs, they’ll have to keep cool heads on defense. Burfict will have to be the leader needed to ensure a solid performance.
Le’Veon Bell went insane against the Bills. No, let me rephrase that. Bell went ham on rye against Buffalo. However you put it, the man shredded the Bills defense for 298 yards of total offense. Bell rushed for 236 yards and gained 62 through the air.
The Bengals have struggled against the run this year and are allowing 119.1 yards per game. Putting bell in check will force Ben Roethlisberger to drop back more often. Big Ben had a decent day against the Bills (220 yards) but he was picked off three times.
Stopping Bell doesn’t mean hurt him. It’s happened a couple of times.
“I’m pretty sure they are going to do whatever they got to try to get me off the field. It is what it is. I understand that,” Bell said, via ESPN. “The last two times I’ve played them, it’s been that way. I’m obviously not going to let it happen a third time. I’m going to be prepared for everything. Got to, because with my mindset I have to be smart about it.”
Sunday should be the day to silence Le’Veon while he’s on the field.