The Bengals and Steelers come into their Week 16 matchup battered, but it appears fortitude will win the day. Pittsburgh is on the heels of three straight losses and hosts Cincinnati, who has rattled off three straight victories.
Something’s gotta give here, and we tapped the insight of Jarrett Bailey over at Behind the Steel Curtain for the scoop on this critical divisional clash.
1.) AC: The last time we chatted, you and the Steelers faithful weren’t very flattering about Kenny Pickett’s outlook. We’ve seen him pick it up a little, get hurt, then pass the baton to Mitch Trubisky. He struggled and now we have Mason Rudolph. What are you expecting from Rudolph after not starting since 2021 and how has this whole situation changed perceptions on Pickett, if at all?
JB: Rudolph can’t be worse than Trubisky. No one is expecting him to ball out and throw for 350 yards, but he’s been in the system longer than any quarterback on the roster. My expectations are low, but again, he can’t be worse than what we’ve seen.
2.) AC: Going into each of these games this year, the Steelers have made major decisions on offense. We just talked about the quarterback change, but a month ago, Pittsburgh made the uncharacteristic decision to fire a coach (Matt Canada) in-season. It paid off a bit against the Bengals, at least in yards gained, but it seems to have stalled out recently. Is that purely because of inept quarterback play, or are more flaws being exposed from the new coaches who have taken over the play-calling?
JB: It’s both. The playcalling is the worst in the NFL, but so is the quarterback play. Even when Matt Canada was still there, Kenny Pickett wasn’t hitting receivers when they were open.
They are averaging less points a game without Canada than with him. A bad quarterback room + bad play-callers = no points
3.) AC: What’s the latest and Steelers’ faithful’s opinion on George Pickens? It seems that his temper and maturity are issues, but I also sympathize a bit because of his being fed up with his numbers and team wins being affected by quarterback play...
JB: I think he should be benched. That said, he’s also a young man in his early 20s who came from nothing but winning and is adjusting to being in the public eye of the NFL. I don’t think they should give up on him, they should be there for him and teach him.
4.) AC: What do you see is the best bet for the Steelers’ defensive attack on the surprising Jake Browning this week? They’re depleted at safety, but Cincinnati will be missing Ja’Marr Chase. Is it simply just relying on that great defensive front for pressures and sacks, or is there more to the secret sauce this week, as this is a much different Browning and offensive system the Steelers saw a month ago.
JB: They’ll have Patrick Peterson playing safety because of all their injuries, and he’s adjusted to his new role pretty well. I don’t think they’ll throw out anything crazy, it’ll be the usual suspects who make the most noise- T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Cam Heyward.
5.) AC: DraftKings has the Bengals at -3 and the over/under at 38. How do you feel about those lines and what’s your prediction for this week?
JB: I think the Bengals win, but the Steelers cover the spread. In terms of the over/under, I’ll take the under on 38 points. Give me Bengals 19-16.
Our thanks to Jarrett Bailey and Behind the Steel Curtain for the sit-down. You can check out the other side of the chat here.