If there is a team that is literally in tatters right now, it is the Pittsburgh Steelers. But on Monday night they will get an opportunity to even their record when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals in the ESPN-televised game that takes place at Paul Brown Stadium with a scheduled kickoff of approximately 8:40 PM ET.
Both teams lost in the season opener. For the Bengals, it was a matter of letting victory slip away, as they folded in the second half to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Steelers had a close game, but they looked hopeless as they lost 16-9 to the Tennessee Titans.
In the NFL odds that have been established at BetOnline, the Bengals are solidly favored:
Cincinnati Bengals -6.5
Pittsburgh Steelers +6.5
Over 40.5 Points -105
Under 40.5 Points -115
When you turn the ball over three times the way Cincinnati did against Chicago, it makes it a lot more difficult to win. And that is exactly what happened. Andy Dalton produced 189 passing yards in the first half, but also threw two interceptions. Mohamed Sanu added a fumble and the Bengals let the Bears back in the game, as Jay Cutler took Chicago on a couple of touchdown drives that went for 80 and 81 yards.
What is Marvin Lewis going to do about his running game? The contributions from BenJarvis Green-Ellis were negligible at best, as he averaged 1.8 yards on 14 carries. The Bengals (the -265 money line favorite at BetOnline) were hoping to get a lot out of rookies Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert on the offensive side. The jury is still out on Bernard after 22 yards on the ground; Eifert looks like he might comprise an interesting tight end tandem with Jermane Gresham, as they combined for ten catches.
Of course, if you talk about the dilemma surrounding the Cincinnati offense, the subject of conversation invariably gets around to the fact that they don’t have somebody who can be really effective at deflecting attention away from A.J. Green. Last Sunday Dalton hooked up with Green nine times for 162 yards, and Green caught both of Dalton’s TD passes. But there was very little support coming from the other wide receivers. One of those was Sanu, the Rutgers alum who has shown some flashes of brilliance, but not nearly enough.
Take note that Cincinnati now has a weapon on defense who for the past decade has been a mainstay in Pittsburgh. James Harrison is now a member of their team, after five Pro Bowls and a couple of Super Bowl rings with the Steelers, and he says that he is healthier than he has been in a long time. That’s good news, because he missed a few games last year because of knee problems.
Pittsburgh is a banged-up side right now. They have now lost two of their starters, as both center Maurkice Pouncey and linebacker Larry Foote have been ruled out for the rest of the season. The loss of Pouncey won’t make Ben Roethlisberger sleep any easier, as the signal-caller sustained five sacks against Tennessee in the opening game.
The 17-9 loss the Steelers (the +225 money line dog at BetOnline) took against the Titans was particularly galling. You have to understand that this was a Tennessee defense that gave up the most points in the history of its franchise last season, and they really shut down the Steelers. When Pittsburgh lost Rashard Mendenhall in the off-season to the Arizona Cardinals, they didn’t do a lot to upgrade the running back spot, aside from drafting rookie Le’Veon Bell (who is hurt) and they may be paying the price for it. Isaac Redman had eight attempts for nine yards against Tennessee, and the leading ball-carrier, LaRod Stephens-Howling, who had 19 yards, has also been lost for the year with a tear in his ACL.
Pittsburgh went out and re-signed Jonathan Dwyer, who had been cut, to give themselves a familiar face at the position. They also have former Dallas Cowboy Felix Jones available at the position.