Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a peek at all 17 games on the Cincinnati Bengals’ regular-season schedule with a prediction, as well as the opportunity for you to sound off!
Up first is none other than the Week 1 AFC North showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium.
After losing 11-straight games in this series, the Bengals have reeled off three-straight victories, each being by double figures. That includes last season’s 41-10 obliteration of the terrible towels at PBS. Even that margin doesn’t reflect how much of a beatdown it was, as Cincinnati led 31-3 at halftime following a Mile Hilton pick-six against his old club.
PICK-SIX!— USA TODAY NFL (@usatodaynfl) November 28, 2021
Ex-Steelers CB Mike Hilton makes Big Ben pay and extends the Bengals’ rout! pic.twitter.com/eV8uxPVuJq
Despite their deficiencies, Pittsburgh did manage to sneak into the playoffs at 9-7-1, and that was with Ben Rothlisberger’s zombified corpse playing quarterback. His 55.8 PFF grade was indicative of just how bad he was.
That grade was actually worse than newly-signed Mitch Trubisky has ever had in his career. Trubisky was brought in this offseason to compete for the starting job now that Ben is retired, though first-round pick Kenny Pickett will also get a chance to earn the job as a rookie.
While neither guy is lighting the world on fire this year, I do think either will be a slight upgrade over what Ben was in 2021. Running back Najee Harris could also be in for a breakout season after a promising rookie campaign.
The biggest key for Pittsburgh is the defense. While it has star power in T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick, injuries plagued the team last year and kept it from reaching its potential. If everyone stays healthy, the Steelers have the potential to produce a top-10 defense.
All told, the Steelers certainly have a ceiling of making the playoffs as a wild card team, but they could easily flounder to a bottom-10 finish, especially with how brutal the schedules are for the AFC North this season.
As long as the Bengals bring their...we’ll say B game, they should win this matchup in front of what’s going to be an electric PBS crowd. It’s also a rivalry game to open the season, so it should be more competitive than what we see on paper.
ESPN FPI: Bengals have 69.1% chance to win.
My early prediction: Bengals 27, Steelers 16
So, how do you see this playing out? Let us know in the poll below and in the comments section!