Well, it’s time to put up or shut up for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2012 NFL season has not started the way the Steelers or their fans have hoped, struggling to a 2-3 record, and winless on the road. Things don’t get any easier for them as they are on the road again, this time traveling to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. With a win they can could take over 2nd place in the AFC North and be in a position to push for a Wild Card spot, but a loss and they are in a hole that might be too deep even for them to dig out of. What should we expect?
When the Steelers have the football-It’s going to be a big dose of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Half of the Steelers running backs including Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman are injured, the offensive line continues to be hobbled with injuries, so all that’s left is for Roethlisberger to chuck and duck to his talented group of wide outs; Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders, along with tight end Heath Miller. I am sure they will make a token effort to run with backs like Baron Batch and Johnathan Dwyer, but let’s not kid ourselves, if the Steeler want to move the football they will need to use the short, quick passing game as their running attack with slants, screens and swing passes to replace the lack of rush offense. And if they can soften the D up a little, go over the top with that speed.
When the Steelers are on defense-The Bengals have struggled to get any sort of run game going, so the Steelers need to focus heavily on the passing attack. If the Steeler can get outside rush linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison on the field, they should be able to get pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton with 4 and 5 players, allowing them to drop 6 and 7 into coverage. The goal has to be to knock the Bengals receivers off their routes at the line of scrimmage, the guys in zone behind them must be smart, and the guys up front have to bring heat. If Dalton has time, he’ll pick the secondary apart. If they can’t get pressure, they’ll have to play coverage, dropping back, keeping everything in front of them and tackle well.
When the Bengals have the football-As I said above, the Bengals don’t run the ball very well. But I still expect them to try against the Steelers defense, just to keep them off of Dalton. I think they will move starting wide receiver AJ Green around, and try and exploit the matchups that will create. Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and tight end Jermaine Gresham round out the receiving corp and give Dalton lots of bodies in the pattern.
When the Bengals are on defense-When your season sack leader is defensive tackle Geno Atkins, you know your defensive line is playing well. But other than Atkins and defensive end Michael Johnson who has 5 sacks no other player has more than 1. You can take this 2 ways. You could say that you key on these 2 and shut down the pass rush, or it could mean 9 other players have registered a sack, so you have to be aware of everyone. With the Steelers offensive line beat up, I am betting they will try unique ways to bring pressure, and do what everyone tries to do, and that’s knock down Roethlisberger.
Player to watch-Steelers-Chris Rainey, RB/WR-Is this finally the week that Rainey breaks out? He had a nice 12 yard catch and run last week, and I hope that when the Steelers coaches see that on the film they think maybe we should do that more with Rainey instead of running him inside.
Player to watch-Bengals-BenJarvis Green-Ellis, RB-The Bengals have to try and move the football on the ground in order to be successful, an that’s going to fall firmly on Green-Ellis. He’s shown some flashes this season, but The Bengals need to just feed him the football and let him run. If he has a big game, it could really hurt the Steelers.
X-Factor-Unforced errors-The Steelers seem to find a way to shoot themselves in the foot far too many times a game this season. Bad penalties, drops, missed assignments and tackles, it all just adds up. You get beat because you did your best, that’s one thing, but you get beat because you didn’t, and it’s something else all together.
Prediction-I predict the Steelers are gong to put on their big boy panties and play some football and beat the Bengals on the road. This is a must win game for the Steelers therefore the Steelers must win. It could be a shootout, and it could come down to the kickers, but I’m going with the Steelers in a close one.
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