Mike Pelaia’s First Look: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

The 9-2 Steelers visit the 5-6 Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night in a game that has a whole lot of meaning for both squads. The Bengals, if they want to remain relevant in the AFC Wild Card race; must win this game. Should they fall to 5-7, they will be all but eliminated.

The black and gold need to keep pace with the New England Patriots for the number 1 seed in the AFC, ahead of their big show down on 12/17.

I expect a hard-fought contest between bitter rivals and ultimately, I think the Steelers will come out on top. However, this game could be a trap game if the Steelers aren’t careful.

Here Are The Keys To Victory

  1. The Steelers need a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell. The Bengals have a porous rush defense but a solid pass defense. The Steelers need to use their best asset against the Bengals weakest link.
  2. The defense needs to pressure Andy Dalton. The Bengals offense is anemic, at best but they do have talent with AJ Green on the outside.  Dalton is average but capable of getting the ball to Green; once Green has it, anything goes. The Steelers need to pressure Dalton to keep the ball away from Green.
  3. I wrote this the last time these teams played but it’s important again; the Steelers need to avoid the chippyness that comes along with this rivalry. It gets very heated and the penalty flags begin to fly. Pittsburgh can’t afford to get caught up in that mess, they need to focus on football and coming out with the ‘W’.
  4. I believe the Bengals will do a decent job of containing Antonio Brown so I’m looking at Martavis Bryant to step up and get the job done this week. He showed flashes against the Packers and there is a lot more where that came from.

Here Are A Few Things To Watch

  1. Mike Tomlin openly admitted that the New England Patriots are already on his mind. Will that impact the play of his team and have them looking past Cincinnati?
  2. The entire secondary looked pretty bad against Green Bay. Andy Dalton is actually better than Brett Hundley, will the Steelers allow him to look like Boomer Esiason?
  3. I want to watch Cam Heyward in the trenches. He’s on his way, as I predicted, to 10 sacks and I think he’s going to inch a bit closer this week. I think he may be the most important player on the defensive side of the ball for Pittsburgh.
  4. It’s hard not to watch out for Vontaze Burfict with all the history he has against the Steelers. What stupid thing will he pull this time?

The black and gold should come out of Cincinnati with a 10-2 record. It won’t be an easy win but with this team, they rarely are. I think it will come down to another late game drive and the Steelers will win 23-17.

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