For anyone who got a chance to watch the Cincinnati Bengals opening game against the Chicago Bears last week, it’s easy to see that there were a few “teething” issues. For one, the offense was unable to hang onto the ball. Several fumbles, some lucky to fall out of bounds, some weren’t so lucky, not to mention the two interceptions by Andy Dalton as well their inability to move the ball in the fourth quarter to solidify their win showed quite clearly that something still isn’t right with the offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals defense was not as potent as they have been hyped up to be right throughout the offseason as they didn’t manage a single sack on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, and only managed to come away with one interception. They also let go of an 11-point lead to lose by three points with only eight minutes to go in the game.
After the sore loss to the Bears, the Bengals are now keen to get off the ground with their first win in Week 2 against AFC North division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have been the team to beat in the AFC North for several years now, but with an aging defense, a poor offensive line and an almost empty backfield , the Steelers will struggle to be a competitive team in 2013.
The Steelers have struggled over the past few seasons to find consistency on their offensive line and although have shown flashes of competency at times, but they will now be without their Pro-Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey for the remainder of the season due to an injury to his ACL and MCL. Protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been difficult for them at the best of times, but trying to hold out one of the top defensive lines in the NFL without him will be a tough job.
The Steelers will also be without Le’Veon Bell still after a Lisfranc sprain during the preseason and it’s likely that there will be another month of football before their future starter can actually start. In the meantime, they will be leaning on Isaac Redman, a running back who has shown an ability to make plays at times, but with a yards per carry average of only 3.7 in 2012 and only 1.1 in week one, they will probably not rely on him on Monday.
Inside linebacker Larry Foote ruptured his bicep during the Steelers season opener against the Tennessee Titans and is almost certainly out for the remainder of the season. This really gives the Bengals rookie tight end Tyler Eifert a great chance to make some big plays over the middle of the field.
The Bengals Defense
The Bengals front seven, looking to bounce back after a slow game against the Bears in week one, will be doing everything that they possibly can to make sure their division rivals are under intense pressure all day long.
Outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict racked up 135 combined tackles last season and against a second-string back field and tight end roster, he should be looking at making up at least half of those this Monday alone. In all seriousness, though, he should be looking at 10 tackles minimum against the Steelers on Monday.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins could be the one who will benefit the most from the injury-prone Steelers on Monday. Racking up three of his 12.5 2012 sacks against the Steelers, Atkins will be looking to make that number even higher now that they are looking to reply on a back up center rather than a Pro Bowler.
As with division rivalries throughout the NFL, this game has always been tough to call because even though there would always be a favorite, it really could go either way. This year, however, if the Bengals can’t get a W at home to a team who are a shell of their former selves, then the postseason will probably not be on the cards in 2013.
Simon Greene – Cincinnati Bengals Writer. Be Sure to Follow Simon on Twitter @simongreene88.