Guest Column: Steelers vs. Bengals Pre-Game Report (by JB in the Big Steel Apple)
Pittsburgh enters this Sunday�s match-up against the Bengals winners of 7-in-a-row and one win away from clinching the best record in the conference. The Bengals on the other hand after starting the season 4 � 2 have once again remembered who they are and have taken their traditional place in the bottom of the AFC Central standings.
On paper, this game looks like a complete mismatch. It is. Unless Cincinnati plays the perfect game, resurrects Ken Anderson and the Icky Shuffle comes back into style, the Bengals really don�t have a prayer.
Actually, that�s a lie, I don�t think the Bengals have a chance even if Icky comes back, but I digress�
Anything can happen and that�s probably what Bill Cowher is telling the boys today. So in the true spirit of parity (which doesn�t exist by the way), I�ll pass on the keys to the game because this the NFL and truly anything can happen�
Keys to the Game:
- Pittsburgh Front 7 vs. Corey Dillon: The cog in the Bengals wheel that can give them any inspiration is Corey Dillon. The Steelers first and foremost need to stop him. Yes, the Steelers can win even if Dillon has a big day, but lets not make this game interesting. Besides, who else on the Bengals offense could control the game? Jon Kitna? Yeah, right�and Marge Schott loved all races.
- The Running Game vs. The Bengal�s Front 7: I don�t know about you, but last week�s 200+ yds of rushing offense was a nice breather from relying on Kordell�s arm. Yeah, I trust the guy, but we are still a ball-control running offense with a pounding-in-your-face mentality. I love the way our passing offense has matured and grown into a lethal weapon in its own, but there is something about watching our offense run circles around, through, over and away from opposing defenses that makes me smile.
- Steeler�s Offense vs. The Red Zone: We need to continue to pound the ball into the end zone like we did last week. It almost made you forget we had red zone troubles. Almost.
- Kris Brown vs. Demons: You know, I didn�t mind the 48-yd miss last week nor did I chastise him for the missed extra point (bad snap and hold). But, as my father put it, no one, I repeat no one is really kicking well this year. Every week you hear of kickers missing numerous easy field goals. As he explained, the more the NFL switches back to natural turf and limits the use of tailored balls for the kickers, the more kicks will sail wide right and left. Yeah, I know Brown is paid to put the ball through the uprights, but sorry folks Brown will miss more kicks this year. Don�t expect a severe turnaround. However, do expect him to get his act together inside the 40. That�s really, where we need him to be automatic. The Steelers really can�t afford these 11 + yd drives ending with missed field goals. Oh? You say you want to bring a new kicker in? Sorry, ain�t going to happen. We got this far with Kris Brown and we�ll ride him the rest of the way.
- Cincinnati�s (Heinz) Field advantage: Traditionally, the Steelers get at least 10 � 15, 000 fans cheering like crazy at Cincy. In the past, the game has even resembled that of a home game with all of the towels waving. The Bengals are already teetering on the brink of depression, bringing our fans into the game early will push the Bungal faithful and players over the edge, and to the parking lot and showers respectively.
Thoughts to keep in mind while going to the fridge for a beer.
- So, the world thinks that Vinny�s miraculous game winning drive last week against the Colts was something special. I�m going to repeat this for the last time, so listen up. IT WAS THE COLTS. Now do I really need to say anything more?
- Look for the Raiders to lose this week in Denver. Mike Shanahan won�t make the playoffs this year, but he would love to stick it to his former employer.�
- I�m sticking to my Strong-as-Steel picks below. Only because, hey, I can take the misses along with the hits.
- Seems Mike Martz is more interested in campaigning for Kurt Warner�s MVPship than he is about winning games these days. Hey Mike, did you notice your team made a cakewalk more interesting with 3 turnovers? Stick the game like most coaches should and everything will play out the way it�s supposed too.
- Bettis needs to play this week. The longer they rest him, the more nervous I get about the first time he gets hit.
- It�s a shame the media didn�t place as much attention on the last game at Three Rivers as it did Foxboro Stadium. I mean can you name 5 great historical NFL memories that occurred in Foxboro? And you can�t use any that include the Steelers.
- Quietly, Jeff Garcia continues to be hobbled. The 49ers need him to be healthy if they have any chance of going deep into the playoffs.
- Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I mentioned a few weeks ago Drew Bledsoe would fit in well at Chicago. Well, read ESPN.com and it seems the Bears are very interested in Bledsoe.
- This is the last I will speak this season about Still Mill/Jason Gildon. I�m amazed that some of the guys in the message boards really hinge on Still�s words. It�s like the Bill Maher/Terrorist incident all over again. I will say this about Mill, he reads every disagreement I have with him, takes the feedback and professionally comments on it himself. We can agree to disagree, why can�t any of you? There, I�m done, now onto the more pressing needs.
- Game of the Week: Baltimore vs. Tampa Bay�If Baltimore wants any shot of a home wild card game, they need to win. Tampa Bay needs to win to pretty much claim the last Wild Card in the NFC for all intents and purposes.
* Last Week�s "Missed Prime Opportunity" score: Pittsburgh 1 Detroit 7+ (I stopped counting)
Note: Team gains a point with each "prime opportunity" they miss.
*-- A "Missed Prime Opportunity" is one in when a team fails to score while in scoring range or doesn�t take advantage of major swings in momentum (i.e. major penalties/turnovers/settling for field goals in successive series/inability to seal a game with first downs). These are killer because a team only gets so many. A great example is the Giants vs. Eagles on Monday night this year. Although thoroughly ass whipping the Eagles in every category, the Giants inability to capitalize on Prime Opportunities causes the Eagles to take the lead with less than 2 minutes left. This gave the Giants at least 4 MPO�s in the first half. Those MPO�s came back to haunt the Giants. The Eagles cause Kerry Collins (The most overrated QB in the NFL) to fumble leading to an improbable Eagles victory in New York.
STRONG-AS-STEEL PLAYOFF PICKS: (In order of Seeding)
Division Winners ����� ����������� ��AFC ����������� ����������� ��NFC
Pittsburgh ����� ����������� St. Louis
Oakland �������� ����������� Chicago
Miami ����������� ����������� Philadelphia
Wild Cards ��������������� ������������New England ����������� San Francisco
Baltimore ����� ����������� Green Bay
NY Jets ��������� ����������� New
Steelers roll to the No. #1 Seed
Steelers 27 Bengals 10
Written by JB IN THE BIG STEEL APPLE