For the first time since the 1989 season, the Cincinnati Bengals will play host to their division rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers in their home opener. This really couldn’t come at a better time for the Bengals either, because the Steelers are in the process of, ahem, re-tooling their team. It’s not likely that they’ll be ready by the time week two rolls around either.
The Steelers said goodbye to their main backfield players Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Rainey. The former signed with the Arizona Cardinals after issues between him and the coaching staff got a bit carried away last season when Mendenhall wasn’t turning up for training and the coaching staff decided not to play him. The latter, Rainey, was dropped by the Steelers at the beginning of the offseason due to off field issues that I would care leave out of this article.
Then Steelers decided to replace them in the second round of the draft by selecting a decent running back and probably the best pass catching back in the draft – Le’Veon Bell. With Isaac Redman being the other main runner for the Steelers, it’s likely that Bell will be the starter. But the big question coming into this game is will he be ready to take on the Bengals’ superior defensive line?
The Steelers have a pretty steady offensive line which allowed just 37 sacks and an admirable 67 hits on their various quarterbacks last season. But without the speedy Mike Wallace to be able to to make quick catches and James Harrison determined to show the Steelers just what they’re missing, it’s likely that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is aiming to get his confidence back after getting ‘the fear’ last season when he returned from injury, will be in for a long day.
Roethlisberger is looking to remove himself from a pretty abysmal season in 2012 and move on in 2013. After what is likely to be a win against the Tennessee Titans at home in Week 1, his confidence will be high. Although his receiving corps is not of the highest caliber, the Steelers will be hoping to get a lot out of hit and miss receiver Antonio Brown and their fourth round rookie receiver who will henceforth be known as ‘New Antonio Brown’ - Markus Wheaton. Wheaton always has the quickness to beat his cornerback on every play and the flexibility to make a decent attempt at a catch on even the worst passes, so the Bengals will be keeping a close eye on him.
If my predictions are correct the Bengals will be coming off of a great win on the road over the Chicago Bears and be firing on all cylinders. By now, the new Bengals two tight end offensive scheme will be finding its legs and will be ready to steamroll a defense that has seen better days.
Predictions: The Steelers will become strong in 2013, but it won’t be this week.
Pittsburgh Steelers 17 – 27 Cincinnati Bengals