Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Overview
This right here, my friends, is the game of the week. By default, that means it will be a blowout. It is a rule that any game I look forward to becomes unwatchable. Don't ask me why... maybe I don't pray enough. We have two teams who are looking to prove themselves. First off comes the visiting Steelers, who I have always loved since Madden '95 came out and I rode Jerome Bettis to total victory over Colin. "Pitch to Bettis, sweeps around the corner, Colin comes up to make the tackle... BAM! STIFF ARM! IN YOUR FACE! TOUCHDOWN GAVIN!" It doesn't hurt that real-life Jerome Bettis is just about as strong. There's a reason these Steelers are favored (and why they were my preseason Super Bowl pick). They can own you on the line of scrimmage. Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, and Bill Cowher's jaw is ready for action. Let the spittle commence!
On the other hand we have the Cincinnati Bengals, wondering why everyone is "disrespecting" them after they beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It might have something to do with them having the worst defense in the playoffs. It might have something to do with Santa taking revenge against Chad Johnson. It might have something to do with MVP Carson Palmer looking more like Eli Manning in the second half of the season. Regardless, the Bengals have a ton left to prove.

Colin: I just want to add just how terrible Jerome Bettis was. I would always play Barry Sanders, and while he was always good to get a few speedsters around the outside, he was never up to Bettis' level. I could overload the side that I knew Gavin was running to and he still would knock off a few good runs.

Pittsburgh "O" vs Cincinnati "D"
Best Matchup: Willie Parker (RB) vs. Odell Thurman (MLB) - This is a fascinating matchup of two rookies playing extremely important roles. Both have been up and down this year, including in games against one another. In the first game, Parker and the Steelers rolled over Thurman's defense, and Thurman got his revenge in game #2. The winner of this matchup wins this game. The Steelers need to move the ball on the ground. Ben Roethlisberger is just not advanced enough to wing it aruond for four quarters (see: Indy game). Of course it will not be just Parker, but also Jerome Bettis softening up the Bengals' mediocre defensive front. Hines Ward is an x-factor for this matchup because of his blocking on the outside, where Parker most likes to run. If he can help Willie break a long one it can help momentum swing the Steelers' way on the road. I'm not sure what we will see out of Big Ben. He had an awful postseason last year, throwing five picks, and the Bengals had 44 forced turnovers on the year. Deltha O'Neal and friends will be sitting on safe routes and will take risks to stop Steeler drives. Roethlisberger needs to be in more control of his emotions and use Heath Evans as a reliable check down. Honorable mention: Ben Roethlisberger (QB) vs. Deltha O'Neal (CB)

Battle of the Trenches: I'm not really sure what I think about this game. On paper the Steelers have an advantage, with players like G Alan Faneca they should be able to control the line of scrimmage. However, I feel that this offensive line has underachieved this year in terms of their consistency. They were rocked in huge must-win games against Indianapolis and Cincinnati, failing to protect the quarterback or help the run. There is a reason two Steelers quarterbacks have gone down with injuries. They keep getting hit. The Bengals and DE Justin Smith should be able to get pressure on Roethlisberger. The inside should worry the Bengals. Two defensive tackles who don't scare anyone.

Biggest Surprise: Bengals being the #1 turnover forcing team in the league. They might give up huge chunks of yards, but they will burn you quickly. If this happens again at home, the Steelers are going to face a huge uphill climb.

Cincinnati "O" vs. Pittsburgh "D"
Best Matchup: Chad Johnson (WR) vs Deshea Townsend (CB)
The Bengals need Chad Johnson to step up with huge plays. He is the emotional leader of this team and personally I can't get enough of him. The Steelers have a good secondary, but S Troy Polamalu loves stopping the run sometimes too much and can get caught too close to the line of scrimmage. That means Deshea Townsend (or Ike Taylor) have to keep Johnson in front of them. The mantra has to be "no big plays". Of course, if the defense focuses too much on Johnson, TJ Houshmandzadeh will destroy you on the other side and Carson Palmer has shown no qualms passing up his star to find the open man. If that wasn't enough, the Bengals get explosive third down back Chris Perry back for this game, giving Palmer a reliable outlet option, and forcing the Steelers to keep a linebacker close to the line in zone coverage. The Steelers love to blitz, and Palmer has to keep his composure in the face of Polamalu and Joey Porter coming off the edge. Rudi Johnson has been one of the more underrated backs this year and will be going up against a Pitt defensive front that has been as up and down as the offensive line. The Bengals, for all their posturing, would love to simply pound the ball to set up the long play action pass. This is a terrific matchup that I can't wait to see. Honorable Mention: Chris Perry (RB) vs Joey Porter (OLB)

Battle of the Trenches: Again, this Pitt defensive line looks great on paper but as struggled in key situations. They have been unable to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, although DE Aaron Smith should be able to help. Pitt will need blitzing in order to rattle Palmer, because the Cincinnati offensive line is too good. T Willie Anderson is the veteran of the group, and in a pinch the Bengals will run to the right over him. This matchup favors Cincy.

Most Enigmatic Player: It's gotta be Chad Johnson. I can't wait to see what touchdown celebration he has going this time out. Maybe he'll put on a halo and sprinkle the cheerleaders with holy water.

Player to Watch For: Chris Perry (RB). If he is healthy he will be the difference maker in the game. The Bengals really missed the extra dimension he added to the passing game in the second half of the season, which partly related in declining numbers for Carson Palmer. With Perry, the Bengals simply have too many weapons for the Steelers to cover.

The Crushed Line: This feels a little like an upset pick, especially because the Steelers are favored nationally, but I'm going with the home team. Yes, Pitt was my preseason Super Bowl pick, and maybe they surprise me and keep on going. However, there has been far too much inconsistency on the part of every playmaker not named Hines Ward on that team for me to believe they can go into a hostile environment against that offense and pull one out. Cincy 30-14.

Colin: Actually, Gavin, according to the line, Cincy IS the upset pick. And since I already picked one upset to occur in the AFC..... Pittsburgh 27, Cincy 24

posted by Gavin @ 10:36 AM  0 comments

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