Long Running Heated Rivals Meet Again Sunday.
When Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis first took over helm of the team he drew a large distinction between games involving opponents within the division. He didn’t water anything down, he simply labeled the week leading up to such a game with name of the opponent and appropriately preached the importance of beating teams within the division as it relates to winning the division and making the playoffs.
Given the long and somewhat checkered history of both epic battles and individual events that have taken place between the two teams, Sunday’s matchup is just as intriguing as ever. While many things are very familiar, just as many are “new and improved” for the home team as both teams roll into the 4:15 P.M. kickoff at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals are coming off of a very solid win on the road against the Green Bay Packers while the Steelers dropped their last game in disappointing fashion to the wild gunman Jay Cutler’s Chicago Bears. The Bengals rode the backs of running back Cedric Benson and the defense that has truly been on the rise for more than a year now.
Cincinnati hopes to end a series of very bad trends as they have not beaten the Steelers at home since December 30, 2001. This string includes missed field goals, blown assignments on defense and a major knee injury to Carson Palmer during a playoff game. To post the win this week they will have to overcome a few injuries and must take advantage of Pittsburgh’s safety Troy Polamalu’s absence. Polamalu is one of many “Bengal killers” that always seem to come up big as AFC North foes have found ways to come out on top. Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 6-2 vs Carson Palmer and has yet to lose in Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals have not had a ball carrier collect more than one hundred yards in a game was Corey Dillon’s 128 in a year 2000 loss to the men of the Steel Curtain. The running game is a key if these trends are to be reversed this week. One more trend being broken this week, the national “pundits” are leaning towards the Bengals in many cases, if not picking them to win, many are expecting a very solid performance and a very close margin by whoever takes the contest. As a rule, the team seems to relish the underdog role…let’s not let the pressure of outside influences interfere!
The Bengals offense hasn’t fulfilled their full potential as of yet this season but they began to get their legs last week in Green Bay. They are ranked 20th in scoring and 21st in total offense which of course includes the opening season loss to Denver where the offense could muster one impressive drive at the end of the game which yielded the lone touchdown of the day. The defense however is ranked eleventh in rush defense which is a huge departure from previous seasons while they rank sixteenth is pass defense. Ranking 26th in turnover margin is a notable stat that must change in order to garner the success that fans are looking forward to this season.
A few things are guaranteed this week: it will be a physical battle with a high level of emotion. It’s key that the Bengals limit silly physical and mental errors, get out to a lead early and keep Big Ben from extending plays that result in big gains. Keep him in the pocket, wrap him up, keep the Steelers’ running game from getting rolling while Benson runs wild and it will all add up to great day of trend smashing for the home team.
About the Author
Written by Daryl Miller
I'm a lifelong sports fan. From short track auto racing, hockey, baseball, football and everything else...I love it.