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Bengals vs. Steelers: Questions with Behind The Steel Curtain

Taking a moment to talk Bengals and Steelers with the awesome Neal Coolong as Behind the Steel Curtain.

Jared Wickerham

What's going on with the Steelers offensive line? Maurkice Pouncey is gone and based on our conversations over the past month or two, you haven't been entirely confident with your team's offensive line.

Expectations were perhaps a bit high on this group going into the year. They really haven't played together a whole lot. Ramon Foster is the oldest at 27, and Pouncey is the most experienced with three years under his belt heading into this year.

Obviously the total experience dropped a bit with Pouncey going down, which is to say our level of experience went from suck to blow. Foster's been with the team since 2009 but he plays a new position each year. David DeCastro has four games of starting experience (and one fine example of what not to do when chop-blocking). Mike Adams took his first pro snaps at left tackle in Week One and Marcus Marcus Gilbert.

It's a work-in-progress, and if by some miracle all of them stay healthy for more than eight plays, they're going to improve.

Fernando Velasco did well for the Titans last year against Cincinnati, and he's just simply a better player than (backup center and tight end) Kelvin Beachum is. It's only a question of how quickly they can get him up to speed with the offense. I see a dramatic improvement from this group in Week two.

What should we expect out of Jarvis Jones, who will be making his first start on Monday?

At least eight sacks, probably a few interceptions. He may even block down on Atkins in goal line, who knows?

If Jones does start - it seems like that will be the case - he will still rotate with Jason Worilds. Venturing a guess, Jones will get passing downs. As impressive as he has been instinctively and physically, he's still got work to do. He didn't do much as a pass rusher against Tennessee, and he is definitely a step below Worilds in terms of run defense.

I'm excited to see him progress, but we're not going to be seeing Julius Peppers or J.J. Watt yet. He needs a bit more work, but he still has this uncanny ability to get to the ball. He's fun to watch.

How big of an impact is losing Larry Foote?

Foote is an outstanding veteran player. The Fantasy Football/Madden generation of football fan won't respect him as a player (he didn't grade "well" at a recent Combine and he doesn't make highlight-reel plays), but he knows where to be on every play. That has a huge impact on a defense. Foote reads the offense and makes adjustments. Those kinds of things aren't easily picked up by third-year players who haven't been with the team, like Kion Wilson (Foote's likely replacement in Week Two).

The Steelers will likely use Lawrence Timmons more in the signal-calling role, something many expected him to have taken on a while ago. They're going to have to cover Wilson up in coverage, but you can't do that in the run game. I would imagine the Bengals will base a large chunk of their game plan on the presence of Wilson.

Many Bengals fans tend to compare Kevin Zeitler to David DeCastro because Cincinnati choose to trade back their pick and grab Zeitler in the first round instead of DeCastro. How would you grade DeCastro at this point.

He's only played in four games to this point. I've seen him do some good things, I've seen him get beat (saw both of those things against Cincinnati in Week 16). A guard in particular is going to improve quite a bit from one game to another, and DeCastro simply doesn't have the experience yet to give a fair grade, but I'd say right now he's maybe a little above average.

Pretty sure what you're getting at, though, so I'll add that right now Zeitler is probably the better of the two. He's also played four times as much, and 75 percent of his experience doesn't come following rehab from a major knee injury.

What's the impact with Heath Miller being declared out?

On one hand, the Steelers offensive line is being savaged right now, which is fair, to a point. However, what's being ignored is the fact their top two TEs are both out - Miller and Matt Spaeth, who was signed specifically to help block the edge.

What's worse, those guys not playing means David Paulson (woefully inadequate pass protector in-line) and David Johnson (coming off a torn ACL of his own from 13 months ago) have to fill in, and they simply are not close to the same level as Spaeth and Miller.

OK, game situation time. The Steelers have the ball at the Bengals three-yard line, down by four points with two seconds remaining in the game. Who do the Steelers turn to to make the game-winning play?

Jarvis Jones.

Considering the Steelers' struggles off the edge right now, I'm really tempted to say shotgun middle QB draw, trying to draw Cincinnati's defensive line forward and count on Roethlisberger to get a chip from a running back while using his size to get the ball across the goal line. Hard to risk that, considering the quickness and awareness of Atkins.

In this game, my guess is they'd put Ben in shotgun, and give him a corner, goal line and cross option with a RB outlet. Let him find something.

Shifting sides. The Bengals have the ball at the Steelers three-yard line, down by four points with two seconds remaining. Which Steelers defender will make the game-winning stop?

Bet you think I'm gonna say Jarvis Jones.

Troy Polamalu is one of the best goal line defenders in the history of the game. I like to think he's gonna be able to read run and react to the pass. Find a spot and make a play on the ball in the middle of the field.

Reality is there's little chance Cincinnati isn't throwing a fade to A.J. Green - not sure why you'd do anything else there. Green's gotten the best of the Steelers' defensive backs in the past because he's a complete freak, but Ike Taylor will make a play or two on a fade throw. He's tall, long and physical. Tough to get those plays consistently over a player like him.

The Ravens suck. Your thoughts?

Since his kick return touchdown in the Super Bowl, Jacoby Jones has lost on Dancing with the Stars, failed his pre-training camp conditioning test and got injured when his own guy hit him on a punt return. That kind of sucks.

Joe Flacco signed a ginormous contract and celebrated in Week 1 with a very Flacconian performance - buncha yards, two picks. He then saw his former main receiver, Anquan Boldin, go off for 208 yards receiving in Week 1. He also got to look at what the Ravens got in exchange for Boldin - a fullback with a bunch of Zs in his last name. He's their second fullback. Keeping two fullbacks on your active roster sucks.

Michael Huff sucks. I'd be surprised if he's playing much against Cleveland (who also sucks).

Maybe the Ravens do suck. Yes, I concur.