I’m going to be on the ground tomorrow in enemy territory so this is going up a day early. Let’s hope I bring home a winner.
Matchup Problem: Antonio Brown, WR.
Not only did Brown have a huge game last time in Cincinnati, but with Leon Hall out and Nate Clements injured, Cincinnati’s secondary is scary thin. I’m pretty confident that Arcade Game Jones can lock up Mike Wallace and limit his big plays, but Brown, going against a banged-up Clements or an inconsistent Kelly Jennings, scares me quite a bit. If the Bengals hope to escape Pittsburgh with a victory, they’ll need to limit the Steelers’ explosive plays. And Brown, although he’s not well known, is capable of scoring from anywhere.
Player to Watch: A.J. Green, WR.
Chad Ochocinco should have changed his last name to Houdini when he played the Steelers, because he always disappeared. Zing! In his first game against the black and urine, Green leaped between two defenders to snatch a touchdown pass and then landed awkwardly, ending any chance of a greater impact in the game. It was a monumental tease, but it also offered plenty of optimism. Green can make plays against anyone, even the Steelers. I fully expect Pittsburgh to double team him tomorrow, sending an extra safety or linebacker his way on almost every play. (Side note: Jermaine Gresham and Jerome Simpson should be getting some very favorable looks tomorrow). But even when Green is double covered, he’s capable of making a big play. He’s done it once. Can he do it again tomorrow?
How the Bengals can win: Cincinnati needs to follow the same formula of games past in Pittsburgh to win this game. A few years ago, the Bengals got a big kick return from Bernard Scott, played one of the most boring games I’ve ever seen, and emerged victorious with a huge win (18-12, I think). Drab and dull is excellent tomorrow. Move the chains, run the ball, limit mistakes, and win on special teams. If the Bengals can do all those things, they’ll have a chance, even with a string of injuries that’s probably worse than at any other point in the season.
In the end, I see Pittsburgh winning this one, as much as it hurts. The Steelers are rather healthy right now with Lamarr Woodley returning at linebacker opposite James Harrison. I don’t like those matchups with the Bengals tackles struggling at times lately. I also am a little worried about Cincinnati’s secondary against a speedy group of receivers. All signs point to Pittsburgh even though I think the Bengals can keep it close.
I say the Steelers win, 24-20.
And I’ll be doing everything I can inside the stadium to make sure I’m wrong.
Feel free to add your own prediction, insight, or analysis by commenting on this thread.