Pittsburgh has been hit hard by injuries in 2012. They were missing seven starters in last week’s upset loss in Tennessee and will again be without key contributors as Troy Polamalu and Rashard Mendenhall will sit. The question is whether that is enough to level the playing field with a Cincinnati Bengals, which is just 4-11 against its division foes since 2009 – including 0-4 against the Steelers?
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
NFL Betting Odds: Steelers -2.5
How The Steelers Can Win
The Steelers have been massacred by injuries, but being the veteran team that they are, they won’t make excuses. What they really need to do is transfer their play at home to the road, where they are 0-3, while they’ve won both games at home so far in 2012. Losing to Denver in the season opener is acceptable, and even though they lost at Oakland and Tennessee by a combined six points, a loss is a loss. The AFC North is up for grabs now that Baltimore is having their own injury problems and the Steelers have to be better on the road to keep their hat in the ring.
How The Bengals Can Win
The Bengals are in a very good spot in the division and a win over the Steelers really cement their place as a contender to win the North. They have to keep their nerves under wraps because this is an absolutely huge game for them: under the primetime lights on Sunday Night Football, facing a team that was one of the kings of the division while the other (Baltimore) has to bounce back from their injuries. The one thing that the Bengals have to do on the field is avoid the big play, because the Steelers will test them with the likes of Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. If the Steelers hit a long play, especially early in the game, it could be demoralizing to a team that has a young nucleus.
Outlook And Pick
The Steelers are actually favored by a point in Cincinnati, where they’ve been pretty good over the last two decades and that’s an understatement: since 1992, Pittsburgh has won 17 of their last 21 trips to Cincinnati, and they’ve covered the spread in 16 of those games. Over the last three years, the Steelers have won all four meetings with the Bengals, and covered the spread on all four occasions. Part of the game of football is mental, and the Steelers definitely seem to have the edge on the Bengals there.
But that being said, things have to change eventually and the Bengals will be able to seize the moment. The Steelers can’t run the ball because their offensive line is banged up, so that will allow the Bengals focus on stopping the pass. Offensively, the Bengals can really go at the Steelers with the duo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, who will likely be defended by the slumping Ike Taylor at cornerback. Cincinnati can’t sit back and all the Steelers to dictate the game; instead, they have to go at them with both barrels and if they go down, go down swinging. Take a chance and pick the Bengals on Sunday night.
NFL Pick: Bengals +2.5