Key Matchups: Bengals vs. Steelers

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KEY MATCHUPS
SEPTEMBER 24, 2006

A former long-time NFL personnel man, the guru, and a current NFL personnel exec, the chief, break down the matchup against the Steelers and call it for the Bengals.

The guru is really impressed with the way Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has come back and while there is a little bit of rust, he says Palmer isn't nearly as rusty as the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger. He thinks the Steelers running game misses Jerome Bettis and even though the Bengals are beat up at wide receiver he thinks the guys that are left can exploit a Steelers secondary he feels can be exposed.

"It's not good that the Bengals are banged up, but I still think they have the advantage because the Steelers played a physical game Monday night. And the key thing is they know they can go in there and beat Pittsburgh. It's two very good teams, two good coaches, and teams that protect the ball and it will come down to protecting the ball."

"Now is the time for them to catch Pittsburgh at home," the chief says. "Their quarterback looks to be a little rattled and the Bengals have the advantage with Pittsburgh coming off a physical game Monday night. This is an easy one to cover. You know what's going to happen. The Steelers are going to try and run it and the Bengals are going to try and pass it. The Bengals have always been able to pass it against the Steelers."

And the Steelers have always been able to run it on the Bengals. Yet with Sam Adams here and Jerome Bettis gone, not so fast, Smashmouth Breath.

WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
* center>QB Carson Palmer vs. Steelers SS Troy Polamalu*

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Palmer

"If Palmer has time to throw, Pittsburgh has a suspect secondary," and the guru says of their cornerbacks, "Ike Taylor has been up and down, Deshea Townsend is small and doesn't have great speed. They are a much better team when they play Polamalu up on the line. When he's back in space, he struggles a little bit. He's like a linebacker. And the new guy (FS Ryan Clark) isn't as good as (departed free agent Chris Hope.)

Jeff Blake and Jon Kitna have had 300-yard days against a Cowher defense and Palmer uncorked a 66-yard bomb on the play he got hurt in the Wild Card game. The zone blitz giveth and the zone blitz taketh away.

The chief says of the Bengals offensive line coach, "Richie's been there 20 years, so I'm pretty sure Paul Alexander has found another guy that can play center now."

Plus, since Perry plays on all four kicking teams, Lewis says more than one guy has to replace him. The Bengals may have to activate an extra DB and go light elsewhere.

Now Adams has to do what he does, penetrate and prevent the traps fueled by the athleticism of Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca.

The guru says that the two athletic Bengals rushers can give the 6-8, 340-pound Starks problems: "He doesn't have the quickest feet in the world." But the son of former Bengals defensive end Ross Browner had a big-league block on running back Willie Parker's 75-yard TD in the Super Bowl.

Parker to the Bengals is going to be a bit like Chiefs running back Larry Johnson. Parker is going to try to get free on the edge to bust a big one, and the Bengals perimeter people like Justin Smith, Robert Geathers, Rashad Jeanty and Landon Johnson will need another effort like the one they had in Kansas City when they held Johnson to 68 yards on 17 carries.

Wilson is supposed to be a playmaker, but his longest catch of the season is 12 yards and the word is the Steelers are looking deep this week to re-establish the big play. But, for that matter, Ward, the Super Bowl MVP, has just a 19-yarder for his longest of the season.

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