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Monday Night Football Preview: Steelers vs Bengals

A chance to right the ship and get another division title under their belt awaits the Steelers in Cincinnati.

Mike Tomlin by Brook Ward is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Monday Night Football Preview: Steelers vs Bengals

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

For 50 years, Monday Night Football has given us a reason to look forward to the start of the workweek. The iconic broadcast showcases the best the NFL has to offer. From armchair Quarterbacks to pitcher and wing deals, from Cosell to Levy, all our rowdy friends are here for Monday Night. In Week 15 of the 2020 Season, that means the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Perfect Get Right Game

Just what the doctor ordered after back to back losses and 3 games in 12 days. A long week and the Cincinnati Bengals. This is a ‘Get Right’ situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers if there ever was one. Can they exorcise the demons haunting them these last 2 weeks and get some confidence back?

Left on the schedule for the Black and Gold are two teams that should be playing well into January, the Colts and the Browns. A convincing win and a division title on Monday Night may be a much needed shot in the arm to this Steelers team.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Keys to Victory: Get the Jet Sweep working again, layoff the droppers

The Steelers have struggled with the run all season. They currently don’t have a solid number 1 back who can find the holes and pound the ball. They rank 31st in yards per game on the ground and it’s not going to magically get better. Teams are figuring out the secret to beating the Steelers. Early in the season, the Steelers utilized the Jet Sweep plenty to compensate for the lack of a rushing attack, to much success. It was brought into the playbook by first year quarterbacks coach Matt Canada.

Canada’s scheme makes Steelers offense harder to defend. And it’s been largely ignored the past few weeks. The Steelers can’t run the ball, and it’s possible Ben’s surgically repaired elbow can’t sling the ball downfield as many times as he’d like anymore. The Steelers need to utilize that presnap confusion they used on 40% of their plays from scrimmage in the first 8 weeks of the season again.

The second key to success on Monday Night is to lay off the droppers. It’s shocking how many times Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron are targeted after 2 weeks of consistent dropping. Johnson and Ebron combined for 12 targets in the loss to Buffalo, and a whopping 23 targets in the loss 2 weeks ago to Washington.

Johnson has the wheels to be a decent piece in this offensive scheme going forward. But he’s got the yips, and he leads the NFL in drops this season. When you have guys like Juju, James Washington, and Chase Claypool on the team, you can lay off DJ until he gets his head right. Same with Ebron. Vance MacDonald can catch balls that hit him in the square in the numbers fine. Throw to him.

The Cincinnati Bengals Keys to Victory: Dare Big Ben to throw

For the Bengals it’s simple. Monday Night is their Super Bowl. They don’t have much to play for other than the chance to cripple the confidence of a bitter division rival. If I’m the Bengals I’m daring Roethlisberger to throw downfield. His accuracy and his arm strength don’t seem all there this season. We’ve seen the Steelers offense struggle to stay on the field at times. Quick 3 and outs could keep Cincy in the upset hunt, and you do that by testing Ben’s arm. Maybe he ends up beating you downfield. But If I’m Zac Taylor I’m at least testing him early to see.

Final Word

I think the situation couldn’t be better for the Steelers. No one had them going undefeated, and it can’t be overstated how grueling their schedule was. They faced 3 teams in 12 days, all of which are playoff bound or potential playoff teams. The biggest concern heading into the week is Ben Roethlisberger. This is why a game in Ohio is even better. Stat Geek had his win percentage in Ohio at 88.2% entering last season. The Steelers are also 16-2 on Monday Night in the Mike Tomlin era. All these factors are great, but the Steelers also need to recognize what hasn’t been working the last 2 or 3 weeks and adjust accordingly.

Prediction: Steelers 27, Bengals 13

Christian is husband, father and video editor working in New York City. Originally from the Greater Pittsburgh Area he is a life long fan The Steelers, Penguins and Pirates as well as Professional Wrestling.

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