AFC North rivals headline Monday Night Football in Week 2, when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Cincinnati Bengals.
Oddsmakers have pegged the Bengals as 7-point favorites and in order to get a better grip on this game we've enlisted the help of those who know these teams the best. Neal Coolong of Steelers blog "Behind The Steel Curtain
" and Mickey Mentzer of Bengals blog "Cincy Jungle
" strap on the helmets and butt heads over which team will not only win Monday night, but cover the spread. WHY PITTSBURGH WILL COVERNeal Coolong (@NealCoolong) writes for Behind The Steel Curtain. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @btsteelcurtain.Dalton's a dud
Since Andy Dalton became the Bengals' quarterback, Cincinnati has defeated Pittsburgh just once - a 13-10 win in Pittsburgh last year. While the Bengals clearly have improved since Dalton's rookie season, his performances against the Steelers have generally been flat. His 62.7 passer rating against Pittsburgh is his lowest against any team in the NFL. He's thrown five interceptions in those four games, having thrown two in a game twice.
They've rattled him his whole career and the Steelers have more playmaking ability on this team than they did the last two years. Last season, he had two regular season games with passer ratings under 60. The first was against Pittsburgh in Week 7. The other was against the Steelers in Week 16. Addition by subtraction
No one doubts Maurkice Pouncey's ability, especially not after the performance of the team's offensive line in a 16-9 loss against Tennessee in Week 1. The Steelers signed Fernando Velasco to replace Pouncey (he will start over Kelvin Beachum, who took over for Pouncey against the Titans). He's an experienced zone run blocker - a scheme the Steelers have worked to implement this offseason. Pouncey is a big piece of that, however, and Beachum simply cannot duplicate his skill level. With Velasco, though, the Steelers will maintain a much stronger ability to run the football. Road field advantage
The Steelers have beaten the Bengals three straight years at Paul Brown Stadium, and have scored - relatively speaking - more points than their season average in all three of those games. Much of it stems off a running game that has worked there better than most other places. The Steelers are going to look to establish the run against the Bengals, bringing a combination of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, who rushed for other 100 yards against Cincinnati in a 24-17 win there last year. WHY CINCINNATI WILL COVERMickey Mentzer (@WhoDeyFans) writes for Cincy Jungle. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @CincyJungle.
A hungry defense
One of the best defensive fronts in the NFL is hungry for a sack after getting none against the Bears last week. Last season, the Bengals were in the Top 3 in the NFL for sacks and are licking their chops at facing a beat-up Steelers offensive line. Geno Atkins will be faced with creating pressure up the middle of a line that lost its starting center for the year last week. Ben Roethlisberger is not going to be comfortable in the pocket and the Bengals are going to create a ton of pressure to disrupt the offense.
A.J. Green torched the secondary of the Bears for over 160 yards and two touchdowns last week. The Bengals retooled offense is stacked with talent after adding rookies Tyler Eifert and Giovanni Bernard in the draft. Andy Dalton has a good offensive line to give him time to pick apart the Steelers secondary with numerous big-play threats. I expect the tight ends Eifert and Jermaine Gresham to have plenty of opportunities to exploit the Steelers defense.Lack of offense
The Steelers offense did nothing against the Titans last week. They were spotted two points to start the game and the score stayed that way until the final two minutes when the Steelers scored a meaningless touchdown. The Bengals boast an even better defense and are sure to put points on the board. If the Steelers offense sputters, this game won't be respectable.
Join the debate. Who covers Monday night: Steelers or Bengals?