Patrick Judis: What is your confidence level in your defense as a whole?
Jeff Hartman: The confidence level in the defense is still very low, but I would say it is getting better. The Steelers still haven’t found an answer for Ryan Shazier being gone in the middle of the field, but they are slowly finding their footing. If they continue this progression, fans will see the pieces start to fall into place. The past six defensive quarters have been their best of the season, hopefully the can continue to build from there.
PJ: Antonio Brown finally had a more typical Brown game last week with over 100 yards and two touchdowns. It was actually his first 100 yard game of the season, though. Do you think this is just the beginning of him returning to form, or is are we going to see a less consistent Brown this season?
JH: This has absolutely NOTHING to do with Antonio Brown, and EVERYTHING to do with Ben Roethlisberger. If you watch the film, Brown is still getting open on nearly every play, but his quarterback has misfired repeatedly when targeting No. 84. Brown will be open, and if Roethlisberger is on point, it could be a long day for any defense.
PJ: Obviously the team has been without Le’Veon Bell for the season as he is sitting out to preserve himself. James Conner has filled in admirably, but how does not having Bell change this team?
JH: To be honest, when the Steelers offense actually commits to running the football, and not having to dig themselves out of a hole, there hasn’t been much of a drop off. Conner has proven he can run, catch and block almost as well as Bell. But if there is one thing the team doesn’t have in Conner, but have in Bell when he is present, is the escapability. Bell is known for making something out of nothing, while Conner is more of the two-yards and a cloud of dust type running back. But overall, Conner has done well.
PJ: The history between these teams is well documented. Fans from both sides know just about everyone on the other team. Is there anyone you think Bengals fans wouldn’t know of who could impact this game on Sunday?
JH: Don’t sleep on two rookies on both sides of the ball. WR James Washington and safety Terrell Edmunds. Both have had their issues early in their respective careers, but I have a hunch both are due for some big games.
PJ: What is your prediction for the game?
JH: The Steelers got rolling last week, and leave it to being underdogs against the Bengals to keep their attention sharp. I like the Steelers in this one:
Steelers - 24
Bengals - 20
Thanks again to Jeff Hartman of Behind the Steel Curtain for taking out time to answer our question.