Neal Coolong (@NealCoolong), the site manager with Behind the Steel Curtain (@BTSteelCurtain), sits down with Scott Bantal to preview the Bengals and Steelers game on Sunday Night Football. If the Bengals win, they claim the AFC North Championship.
Q: For whatever reason, home field advantage has been non-existent in this rivalry of late. Since Marvin Lewis took over in 2003, the Steelers are an astonishing 11-2 in Cincinnati but just 6-5 in Pittsburgh. Why are the Steelers better against the Bengals in Cincinnati than they are at home?
A: Your answer is as good as mine. The Bengals whipped a bad Steelers team at PBS in Week 3 last year, the Steelers got even courtesy of a few big plays in the rematch in Pittsburgh last year. As you alluded to earlier, the first meeting this year was a close, competitive game that got out of hand late. I think they've just been two evenly matched teams that have something of a statistical anomaly in terms of road and home success in their match-ups.
Ultimately, if we were to dig into it, I imagine what we'd find is a slew of game-specific examples, from injuries to streaks to barometric pressure to North Korea hacking into playbooks.
Q: What does the injury report look like coming into this game?
A: Good news for you guys, it appears there's a chance cornerback Ike Taylor may play in this game. You might remember him as the guy flailing in coverage as Green blew past him down the field. Considering how fast Bengals QB Andy Dalton likes to get rid of the ball in a shorter passing attack, and the way teams have been throwing short passes in lieu of a running game, looking to get blockers down the field, I wouldn't be surprised to see Taylor, by far the biggest and most physical Steelers cornerback, get back on the field for this one. The Chiefs really brought the physical aspect of the game to the Steelers' smaller cornerbacks last week, and Atlanta did something similar. If lots of short, quick throws are not at the top of the Bengals' strategy when they have the ball, I'd be shocked.
Safety Troy Polamalu was also limited on Wednesday (their last practice before I wrote this), and both are up in the air right now. Outside of that, the Steelers are healthy. They got right tackle Marcus Gilbert back last week which was a plus (held a dominant Chiefs' pass rush to just one sack).
Taylor is the one to keep an eye on, because if the Bengals see 24 on the field, I will bet my life savings (all $47.21 of it) Cincinnati will attack him deep on one of their first five plays.