Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bloggers Roundtable: Bungles Edition

After the wildly successful collaboration of Steelers bloggers last week in preparation for the Ravens game, we decided to get back in the ring and have another go at it.

This week, I am joined by Cotter from One For The Other Thumb and Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog.

Hope yinz enjoy this edition as much as you enjoyed last week. If you have any thoughts, comments, or disagreements, feel free to leave them in the comments. As with last week, we stuck a poll at the bottom of the post for you to leave your game prediction.

Question 1: What do the Steelers have to do to win?

Put the game away when they get the chance. In the first game against Cincinnati, they had the opportunity to bury the Bengals in the first half, but a fumble killed the momentum and led to the Bengals first touchdown. The Steelers did bounce back to take a 20-7 lead into the half. In the 3rd quarter, they had plenty of opportunities to put more points on the board and essentially put the nail in the coffin, but had two 3-and-outs. We need to take control of the game early then bury them when we get the chance. Don't let them hang around to the point where one big play through the air can change the game.

I think it is really simple, just do what you do and take care of business. I know many people are going to deem this a “trap game” but I really think Mike Tomlin is going to have the boys ready. I know many of the players wouldn’t say this to the media, but to a man they were embarrassed to lose to the Bengals twice last year and have them win the division. I really think they would have rather have the Ravens won the division because at least they can respect that the Ravens are a good team. None of us, or the players in the locker room, were born the last time that the Bengals had back-to-back winning season. So just sticking to the game plan and executing the game plan should be good enough for the Steelers to win.

The cynical response would be “show up.” But the realistic response is probably just play the game as if the Bengals were the Ravens or anyone else standing on the tracks that lead to January. The Steelers have been chugging along, making the plays that need to be made and winning as a result. The team needs to keep this momentum going. But the Bengals 2-10 record is deceiving. They’ve been in a lot of those games, including the one last week against New Orleans; they just can’t close ‘em out. So, the Steelers just need to be the tougher football team, once again. 60 minutes. Play balls to the wall for all 60. 

Question 2: What player on the Bengals scares you the most?

Jordan Shipley. This might seem odd, but I think it's a well-established fact that Willie Gay is probably our worst cover-corner. Tom Brady chased him up and down the field. In spread-formation packages, Gay as the nickel back will draw Jordan Shipley out of the slot. Last year the Bengals terrorized us with short passes to their slot receivers. The Bengals #3 guy has traditionally had success against the Steelers, dating back to Chris Henry.

As much as I hate to say it, T.O. is going to be the one I worry the most. He had a huge game against us and most likely he is going to be matched up with Will Gay/K. Lewis/BMac in the slot. Ike Taylor is easily our best corner but the Steelers rarely have him shadow players across the field. The Bengals are going to exploit some recent (I guess) weaknesses in the secondary and matching T.O. up on whoever is playing the nickel back is going to be a huge success.

Brian Leonard? Is that fair? I mean, I guess T.O., since he’s having a renaissance type season, despite the fact that the Bengals are a punch line. Still, I wouldn’t exactly characterize my feelings towards T.O. as “scared” so much as loathsome. Also, Leon Hall can suck it. No real reason to say that, I’m just trying to be a dick.  

Question 3: What Steelers player are you looking for to have a big game?

Rashard Mendenhall. The Bengals are 24th in the league in run defense. The weather for Sunday looks atrocious (Rain/Snow mix, high of 36) and the Steelers will do well to keep it on the ground, wind the clock, and let Ben work some play-action passes.

LaMarr Woodley. The Bengals are much better on the right side of the line than the left side and it has been a revolving door for the Bengals. Woods has been in a little bit of a funk and only has 6.5 sacks on the season. This is very similar to a few years ago during the Super Bowl run (I think) when Woodley just went off and exploded at the end of the season and playoffs and had two sacks every game. I can see him getting that streak started on Sunday.

Rashard Mendenhall. The Bungles are in the bottom 10 in terms of rush defense. Controlling the game begins with Mendenhall. I’ve loved the way he’s been running this season, even if he isn’t breaking big runs every week. It’s being able to pick up 4-5 yards and being a threat to break one on every play that keeps defenses rocking back on their heels. I’d love to see Mendenhall bust one or two on Sunday. I mean, who doesn’t love watching him run the football?

Question 4: What match up do you think we can exploit?

Is it fair to say "All of them"? Really, on paper the Steelers should dominate the Bengals. That said, with the weather conditions, Steelers offensive inconsistencies, and NFL officiating, the game will probably be closer than is comfortable. Nevertheless, the Bengals run defense is awful so we should be able to run all over them, which could open up the play-action game for Ben to stretch the field with Mike Wallace.

Um, can I just say the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Cincinnati Bengals? That is pretty much it. The Bengals are not a good club and despite the Steelers injury struggles they are a good football team. If I had to pick one thing I guess it would probably be the front line on both sides. The Bengals do not have good o-line or d-line talent and the Steelers can exploit that through the running game and giving Carson Palmer a hell of a time when he tries to drop back and throw.

The Bengals Defense on the Steelers Offense. The Bengals are giving up almost 27 points a game on average. Do you need me to spell it out for you?

Question 5: Biggest underlying story in the game?

The Bengals swept us last year. This game is all about revenge. As a side note, Orange might be the worst possible jersey color. I can't think of one team that wears orange that I like. Bengals? Browns? Broncos? Flyers? Yeah, no. Orange blows.

Honestly is there really one? I think this is just a pretty cut and dry game. Listening to the podcast over at Steelers Lounge this week the one thing that caught my attention was when they talked about the Bengals just coming in and giving up. Marvin Lewis is basically a lame duck coach and some of their big name players are not going to be back next year. Sure there are going to be guys who are playing for jobs next year and auditioning for other teams but is this team going to roll over if the Steelers score the first 10 or 14 points? Please spare me the “oh well they didn’t do that last game a month ago” garbage because they still had a small (very slim) outside chance of turing the season around and maybe making something of their season. Now they are just playing to not be the worst team in the league.

Probably that this will be one of only several Bengals games that aren’t blacked out this season (coincidentally, you’re welcome, Bengals “fans”). No, I’m not sure it’s “the biggest underlying story,” or even a story at all, but I’m slightly concerned that the Bengals really have nothing to lose. They’re obviously going nowhere. They’re this year’s Browns. Remember a year ago when the Browns beat the Steelers...that may have been the only win the Browns needed last season. They didn’t have the best season, but they beat the Steelers and made an impact on the Steelers’ season, which in this division can be a major morale lift. The Bengals have lost NINE STRAIGHT GAMES. The God damn plane has crashed into the mountain. What better way to wind down the season on a high note than beating the Steelers at Heinz Field during the stretch run? So, for me, I guess it’s like Joe Jackson says in Field of Dreams - “look for low and away, but watch out for in your ear.” It makes sense, trust me.

Question 6: Final Score?

Steelers 27, Bengals 13. As I said in the prior section, on paper, we should kill them. But the Steelers don't often "just kill" someone, so I think the game will be a little closer than we would like. 

Steelers 24, Bengals 10. Like Ian said the Steelers rarely blow teams out but I think they get the late points that they need to get away with a HUGE win and set up a really big game against the Jets the week after.

Steelers – 35, Bengals 20. I don’t even think the Bengals will score 20, but I’m going with that number anyhow. Ideally I wouldn’t mind it to be 35-0, Steelers, but I’m not trying to get greedy. 

No comments: