Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (4-7) +7, 45 O/U at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) -7, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, 8.15pm EST Sunday
by The Crazy Snake of

Have you ever seen anything like we witnessed on Monday Night Football last week? At one point I seriously thought we were going to over time with a blank score sheet. You can’t really blame the Steelers for their inability to score. The conditions were appalling and they could barely stand up, let alone run on the shifting surface. Try to catch a bar of soap with wet hands. That was the job Hines Ward and company had to contend with. With an ounce of luck and some divine intervention we won’t have anything like those conditions for this game. Rain is forecast, however, so anything is possible.

Regardless of conditions, Pittsburgh has looked anything other than a dominant AFC North force in the past two weeks. With a loss to the lowly Jets preceding a 3-0 last minute victory over the winless Dolphins, they are looking more than a little suspect and have the Browns now breathing down their necks for divisional title honours, just one game back.

Though Pittsburgh has had far the better of Cincinnati on home soil in recent meetings, the Bengals will be buoyed by some solid recent form and a resounding victory last week, with both Johnson boys having their way with the Titans’ defense. The offense amassed 426 yards and controlled the game clock 38.5 to 21.5, such was their dominance. They are highly unlikely to have that kind of dominance here against the clock milking, grind it out Pittsburgh game plan, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

Given the potential for more rain, the general poor recent form of the Steelers and the resurgence of the Bengals I am not at all keen to give up the 7 points the bookmakers have set this Steelers mark at. The over and under was a whopping 48 at the start of the week but obviously someone in the know has gotten the same weather forecast as me, and as rain looms so does the possibility of another soggy slog. That total points mark has fallen to 45 and may see lower as time rolls on.

The recent form of Cincinnati has been far better than their early season record indicated. Last week their defense really stepped up and rivaled the offense for efficacy. They made Tennessee one dimensional with strong run blocking, allowing them only 61 yards on the ground for the game and forcing Vince Young into a passing game that became highly predictable. They will need a similar effort against Willie Parker and the strong rushing Steelers if they are to expect a similar result here. Their effectiveness, or lack thereof in that effort will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this game, so long as the weather doesn’t play too big a part and make this into a lottery.

I have a lean to the Bengals here for a few reasons, not the least of which is the likelihood of rain and difficult conditions. That will serve to make scoring problematic and compress the scores, and if that happens it’s anyone’s game. In dry conditions I definitely favor the Bengals. With a significant recent improvement in their defense, coupled with an ever reliable scoring capability they will be a handful for the Steelers. The Steelers couldn’t shake off the less prolific Jets. How are they going to cope with the Bengals? They might win, but I wouldn’t want to be giving away a 7 point start under any conditions.

The Snake’s Bite: Take the Bengals with the 7 point start. Wet or dry, that would seem to be a couple too many points on the current exposed form of these sides, even at Heinz Fortress. With traditional rivalry always in play, this is sure to be a closely fought tussle and I must lean with the potentially better offense with such a nice head start.