Joe: My Spidey senses are tingling, but they also need to be recharged as we head into this week's bold predictions for the Steelers and Bengals. Due to the refresh, I'm back to brag about my (nearly) perfect predictions last weekend (not) and allow my Steel City Underground Podcast co-host Brian E. Roach to swoop in and give us what's sure to be some insane calculations as to what will happen on Monday night.
Before I allow his lunacy to grace this page, let me first revisit what would've been against the Green Bay Packers. My prediction of five-plus sacks fell short at four, and 31 points scored might be considered "mid" 30's if we want to stretch our imagination.
But boy did I ever hit it on the Le'Veon Bell "show" and the "big game" for Big Ben picks.
Bell eclipsed 150 yards from scrimmage with 183 all-purpose yards but didn't find the end zone like I had thought he would. Roethlisberger, on the other hand, smoked past my benchmark of 300 yards passing and tossed an extra touchdown more than my vision of "2-3" for good measure. (Big Ben threw for four touchdowns in the game.)
So without further adieu, I punt to Brian, who's sure to make a mess of my near perfection to date...
Brian: And right you are sir! You want Bold! I'll give you Bold! Do you want predictions? Well, let me put on my every popular hat of prognostication and I'll give the boldest of bold predictions.
Antonio Brown Plays
Hey, I thought I'd start out modest and work my way up to the really bold ones. Antonio Brown showed up on the injury report as a bit of a surprise last week with a "toe" injury. He hasn't practiced all week, and has been officially listed as a game-day decision. "Tony Toe Tap" may have tapped a toe a bit hard, but it won't trip him up from playing in a prime-time Monday night matchup.
Brown Hits the Century Mark
Last time around Antonio was targeted 10 times, but only managed 4 receptions for 65 yards. I think the targets will be very similar, but the outcome could be more on the upside of 110 yards. AB will get his, he almost always does, and despite a secondary that is filled with first-round picks, I think the sixth-rounder will come out on top, catching 9+ balls for over 100 yards, and a TD.
The Bell is Rung
Brown can be aided if Le'Veon Bell gets some love. He rushed for 134 yards the last time these two teams met and has historically been able to move the ball on the Bengals. While they have a stout defensive line, and their secondary is solid, they have had difficulty stopping the run, and the Steelers should be able to take advantage. If they don't fall behind and can feature Bell and the rushing attack, Bell will rack up another 100+ yard day.
Ben Throws More TDs than INTs
Cincinnati has had a habit of finding a way to take the ball away from the Steelers in the form of INTs. However, if Ben doesn't try and force things, and takes what the Bengals give him he can avoid more of those picks and should be able to toss a TD or two. I think Ben comes close to 250 yards passing, with 2 TDs and avoids costly mistakes with no interceptions.
Dragon Ball Z Redux
JuJu Smith-Schuster will be back from missing a game with a hamstring injury, and I expect a celebration. Of course, for JuJu to celebrate, he needs to score, and I think he will and I'd like to see another Dragon Ball themed celebration ensue (partly because I didn't understand what he was doing the first time around, so I need another opportunity). JuJu should make his presence known, and I he'll come up big with 5 catches for 80 yards and a TD.
Dalton Hits the Turf 5 times
In the last game, the Steelers sacked Andy Dalton 4 times. I think they improve on that and get him on the ground 5 times in this game. They will need to. If they can't get to Dalton then he will have time to hook up with A.J. Green, and considering the problems the secondary has had, that could spell disaster. Last time around Dalton was so sick of getting hit that he quit (if you remember that fourth down throw away he had late in the game. I don't know about you, but that's called quitting to me).
Disaster Is Avoided
In the last 3 weeks of play, the Steelers have been torched for long passes in bunches. There is absolutely no reason at all to expect that to change. Therefore, I am saying it will. No long TD passes from the Bengals in this game. Why? What could convince me to assume this issue will be resolved?
It has more to do with thinking Dalton will spend more time on his back than on his feet than it does faith that suddenly the Steelers' struggling secondary will see the light. I don't think Dalton will have time to find anyone deep. If he does, this game will be a lot tougher than it should be.
Joe Mixon is held in Check
Lots of talk about how Mixon is becoming ingrained in the Bengals offense. How he's getting into the groove and becoming the runner that they thought he would be. Hey, as Joe pointed out, Pro Football Focus has him ranked higher than Le'Veon Bell. I need some of whatever they are smoking because the Steelers are going to clear the air and show that Mixon isn't Bell and hold him to under 60 yards.
That's all my predictions. We'll see how badly I wrecked Joe's percentages!