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Matchup: Steel edge dulled at home?






OCTOBER 28, 2007

The Steelers have won six straight at Paul Brown Stadium and if they win another one Sunday in Mike Tomlin's Cincinnati debut as Pittsburgh coach the roundtable fears the Bengals' bid for the playoffs is done.

But while they give the Steelers the edge, they also believe the Bengals have a shot because of their offense's familiarity with Pittsburgh's No. 1 rated defense,

"And you've got Carson Palmer," says The Guru, a former top football executive for an NFL team. "Ben Roethlisberger is having a better year than he did last year, but you can unnerve him with a couple of hits early. The key to this game is always that the Bengals can't let anybody run free to the quarterback. And the Bengals know that they have to win this game in order to stay competitive for the playoffs. It's the kind of team they have to beat, especially at home."

"Go back to my notes," says The Chief, a personnel director for a team not in the Bengals division. "They've been effective scoring against Pittsburgh since the days that Bruce Coslet was the Bengals head coach. And the Steelers are doing the same stuff. Yeah, Pittsburgh gets an edge, but with the Bengals at home and the way they play them on offense, I can see them winning."

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski vs. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau



But how tough will this one be? Even when they split the two games last year, the Bengals never got 300 yards. And they had Rudi Johnson, Chris Henry and Willie Anderson.

"If you can protect Palmer and make sure no one is running free on the blitzes, you can throw the ball on them," The Guru says. "Look what Denver did to them last week (when Jay Cutler passed for 248 yards and three touchdowns)."

Enter Jones and Kelly on the perimeter.

"They may not have Henry, but they still have 'Who's Your Momma' and he and Chad can still do damage to a secondary," The Chief says. "The way Pittsburgh plays, the Bengals have always found a way to go long against the blitz even when they had just Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott."

The longest ball they've allowed is 38 yards. Henry went longer than that twice in the fourth quarter alone in the finale last year and in four of the last five games the Bengals and Steelers have played, Cincinnati has had at least one 40-yard-plus catch.

The best defense against a good running game? The clock and your best offense. This business about a good second half followed by a good first half on defense will kill the Bengals Sunday against these guys.

The Guru also thinks new center Sean Mahan has been overpowered a bit as the Steelers try to grapple with the Rich Braham-like loss of Jeff Hartings.

Usually this season Williams has had that penalty call go against him as one of the team leaders in penalty yards. The Steelers will no doubt try to get more flags against him with Miller.

It also shows how veteran leadership sets a tone. If O'Neal isn't going to tackle, why should the kids? But O'Neal stepped up his game in the second half and so did everyone else in the secondary.

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