Quick question: which two teams have represented the AFC North in the playoffs in three of the last four years? Hint: it’s not the team wearing black and gold. Its last year’s Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals.
After a bad opening week for the AFC North, the Week 2 divisional matchups of Cleveland at Baltimore and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati gain some early-season urgency to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start.
The Bengals are coming off a tough loss against the underrated Chicago Bears. Even though the Bears were a top-five defense in 2012, Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense still managed thre TDs and 340 net yards.
The Steelers offense, on the other hand, failed to score until just under three minutes left in their opener, losing to the Titans 16-9. And as a result, the Steelers are currently set as 7.5-point underdogs for Monday night in Cincinnati.
In Week 1 the Steelers offense never overcame the loss of center Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey will be replaced this week by the newly-added Fernando Velasco. The Steelers hope the former Titans starter can strengthen their running game and protect their star quarterback from the Bengals’ highly-ranked pass rush.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and coach Marvin Lewis, former Steelers linebackers coach, will definitely focus on disabling Roethlisberger’s ability to beat the Bengals through the air. Especially since the Steelers can’t seem to get the ground game going.
In their last meeting the Bengals beat the Steelers 13-10, but neither Roethlisberger nor Dalton did much to help their teams win. Both quarterbacks threw two picks, with the Bengals returning one for their only touchdown of the game.
Interestingly, it may be to the Steelers’ advantage that the game is in Cincinnati. The Bengals have won just one home game vs. the Steelers in the past decade. So regardless of the Bengals recent playoff appearances, they have struggled against the Black and Gold.
This will be the ninth time the Steelers and Bengals have faced off on Monday night; the Steelers are 6-2 in those games. Only a handful of teams have started the season 0-2 and have gone on to make the playoffs. Both the Steelers and Bengals are hoping to deliver an early-season knockout to their division foes in prime time.