Cincinnati, OH - Two missed fourth-quarter field-goal attempts by Jeff Reed led to the Pittsburgh Steelers' first loss. Reed hasn't been needed for much clutch kicking in recent years against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Steelers look to win their ninth straight at Cincinnati as they face the Bengals in the teams' AFC North opener Sunday.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Steelers -4 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on the Steelers -4 (View NFL bet percentages).
One of the most reliable kickers in NFL history, Reed missed twice in the final quarter of Pittsburgh's 17-14 defeat at Chicago last Sunday. He missed from 38 yards away - a kick that would have given the Steelers a 17-7 lead - after going 39 for 40 inside 40 yards last season.
Reed's second miss, from 43 yards, would have put the Steelers (1-1) up by three with 3:18 remaining. Instead, Robbie Gould's 44-yard kick with 15 seconds left gave the Bears the victory.
Pittsburgh hasn't had to rely on Reed very much against the Bengals (1-1), winning by an average of 14.0 points during an eight-game winning streak at Cincinnati. That run includes a 31-17 victory in a wild-card matchup Jan. 8, 2006.
Cincinnati has lost five straight overall against Pittsburgh, scoring 10 points in each of the last three contests. Reed did force overtime with a field goal in the fourth quarter of a 23-17 road win Dec. 31, 2006.
After last week's disheartening loss, Pittsburgh should certainly be motivated for its first AFC North game.
"We go in there knowing it's a division rival and it's the first step in the road," Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks told the team's official Web site. "The biggest thing for us is knowing it's a division opponent and just being ready to play and knowing it's going to be a nasty tough game.
"It's a war of wills when you walk into that stadium. As soon as one team breaks the other one usually the game is over."
Pittsburgh will be without All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu (knee) for the second straight game. Tyrone Carter, who replaced Polamalu against the Bears, is expected to play despite a bruised left thigh.
The Steelers will need to be sharp in the secondary against the Bengals' Carson Palmer, who has been helped by the emergence of a strong running game.
Cedric Benson ran for 141 yards in Cincinnati's 31-24 victory at Green Bay last Sunday. The Bengals are 4-0 when getting at least 100 yards from Benson, who has gone from a bust in Chicago to a key part of Cincinnati's plans offensively.
Benson came off as immature in three seasons with the Bears, expecting to play early even though Thomas Jones was entrenched as the starter, and his behavior agitated many veterans. Palmer, though, admires the way he goes all-out in practice and has become such an important part of the team in less than a year.
"His will and his drive is something we feed off offensively," Palmer said.
Benson was on his way to a 100-yard game in the opener against Denver on Sept. 13, gaining 55 by halftime. Cincinnati, however, gave him the ball six times in the second half and lost 12-7, as the Broncos got a tipped, 87-yard TD catch from Brandon Stokley in the closing seconds.
"The Bengals should be 2-0 right now," Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley. "When you go back and watch highlights of the Denver game, they had the game won."
Cincinnati failed to score against Denver until a 1-yard TD run from Benson with 38 seconds remaining. The Bengals stuck with Benson in the second half versus the Packers and used play action to take advantage of safeties who were more worried about the run.
Palmer had three TD passes last week, one of them a 13-yarder to Chad Ochocinco in the third quarter. However, he has a career 78.4 passer rating in eight games against the Steelers, losing six.
Palmer missed Cincinnati's two games against Pittsburgh last season due to an elbow injury. Ben Roethlisberger threw for three TDs without getting picked off in those contests.
Roethlisberger had a TD pass and ran for a score in the Steelers' 27-10 home win Nov. 20, the teams' last meeting.
Posted: 9/23/09 5:37PM ET