"It's not about what you are capable of ... it's about what you are willing to do."
- Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach
- Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach
It's revenge time. Because I stood by the Stillers and backed them in an office wager the last time Cincy played Pittsburgh (we lost), I've been stuck wearing the same ugly Bengals tie to work this week. Needless to say, I'm festering with anger. So imagine how the team feels!! This is the statement game of the year. For the past 10-15 years, every once and a while, a team will creep up and challenge the Steelers for the divisional crown. Last year, it was Baltimore. In 2005, the Bengals actually won it, but then choked in the playoffs while hosting the Burgh. Before that, the Browns briefly challenged, but Tommy Guns dispatched them in the Divisional round with a rousing comeback. Anyway, this year, the Bengals have surfaced again. We're used to fending off pretenders, so there's no need to fear, Steeler fans. I'm going to provide with the Top 10 reasons why we will win this Sunday, and inevitably go on to capture the division.
I'll give the Bengals credit: it's hard to sweep division rivals, yet they manhandled Baltimore, a much more impressive win than their win earlier this season. We beat the Ravens 3 times last year, but every one of those games was tough. There's no way the Steelers find themselves in a similar position this year. They won't let the Bungals take both games this year. Sometimes it's as simple as that.
9. Mike Wallace is dangerous
This guy came out of nowhere. On a team with TWO SUPER BOWL MVPS starting at wideout, Braveheart is stealing the show. At first, I was impressed with his straight-line speed, but lately he has proven himself a reliable 3rd-down target. Combine him with Ward's brains, Santonio's hands, and Heath Miller's size, and we are a DANGEROUS receiving team. I haven't seen us this strong since the days of Ernie Mills, Yancey Thigpen, and Charles Johnson.
8. Vegas loves us (7 point favorites)
Think about it. It's a tough-as-nails divisional game against a team that beat us earlier in the year. In spite of that, Vegas has us as favorites by a TOUCHDOWN! They don't expect this to be close, and you shouldn't either. The Steelers bring such a quiet swagger to the table. We know how to prepare for these kind of games in a way that Cincy will never know.
7. Steeler depth
We've seen injuries to Polamalu, Aaron Smith, Travis Kirschke, Larry Timmons, Ryan Clark (not an injury, just a precaution), and Willie Parker. And yet, the only noticeable absence was Polamalu. Everyone else has been ably replaced by an endless stream of capable backups. In fact, 3 of them (Mendenhall, Tyrone Carter, Keyaron Fox) have stepped up and played huuuuuge games.
6. Heinz field advantage
It's later in the year. Pitt is playing the night before against Notre Dame. This field is going to be mangled, and no one knows how to handle a shitty field like the Steelers. I wouldn't be surprised if Ochostinko stumbles on a few routes and Benson falls at the line of scrimmage. Couple that with the Pittsburgh fans and the Steeler's intimidating home jerseys.
5. Mendenhall keeps us two-dimensional
If Qui-Gon were around, he'd be on his deathbed stressing "He will.... bring balance..." I don't know how the O-line turned it around from a year ago, but them and Mendenhall have been locked in these past few weeks. He's also a much better receiver than soon-to-be-unemployed Fast Willie. If we get the play-action going early, this might end up a rout.
4. The Bengals will not be able to run the ball
Who are the most dangerous runners in the league? Number one is Adrian Peterson followed closely by Chris Johnson. Also in the discussion is Cedric Benson, yet the Steelers held all of them under 100 yards rushing. No team has been able to effectively run the ball, and Denver was ABYSMAL on Monday night. Their longest run was maybe 7 yards, and they probably averaged less than 2 yards a carry. The Bengals' only hope is Carson Palmer.
3. Ben Roethlisberger is having his greatest season ever
Perhaps he should be accused of rape more often, because Huge Ben is on a mission this year. He's tied with Peyton Manning for the top completion percentage in the league (over 7o%), he's on pace for more than 4000 yards, and he's picking apart opposing secondaries in the no-huddle. And what about his fancy highlights and 5 o' clock shadow? The chicks don't need to be forced into loving that.
2. The Defense has re-established their dominance
Run defense. Pass defense. QB pressure. It really doesn't matter. The defense is so well-rounded that they look even better than last year's historically great squad. We're tackling better than I've ever seen. The crazy formations (1 down lineman, 5 prowling LBS, and 5 DBs) are scary and effective. I've already mentioned the depth we've seen on defense. I love seeing them assemble the convoy on turnovers. The list goes on and on. The only gameplan that teams like to try against us is the dink-and-dunk West Coast offense. The Seahkawks in SBXL, the Patriots all the time, the Cardinals in SBXLIII, the Broncos this year, the Vikings this year, etc. etc. That kind of attack only works if you're QB is patient and accurate (really only Brady can pull it off against us). The Bengals don't use that kind of passing attack. Palmer loves to throw timing routes further down the field (flag outs, flag ins, skinny posts, deep hooks, etc.) If we get pressure on him early and get him moving his feet, those kinds of patterns will constantly be disrupted.
1. Troy Polamalu is playing this time
The only person that would hurt us more by being out is Ben Roethlisberger. The defense was noticeably slower and susceptible to giving up 3rd down conversions. With the best safety in football back in the lineup, the defense is unbeatable. Last week he took over the game. He ran down Brandon Marshall to make what could've been a huge gain just a modest one. He sprinted into the backfield to take out Moreno. He followed that up with a clutch interception. The Bengals bested the Steelers by marching down the field on a long, clock-bleeding drive that was sustained by several 3rd and 4th down conversions. With Troy in the game, there's no way he doesn't make a play on one of those, especially the 4th-and-10 that broke our back.
PREDICTION: Steelers cruise, 34-13