Steelers try to rebound
The Bengals look to register back-to-back wins for the first time this season and halt a lengthy losing streak to the Steelers in Cincinnati when the division rivals meet for the first time this year.
Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Pittsburgh -3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 48 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh -3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Including playoffs, the Bengals (2-4) have dropped six straight at home to Pittsburgh (4-2) since a 26-23 overtime win on Dec. 30, 2001. Overall, the Steelers have won 14 of their last 17 visits to Cincinnati since the start of the 1991 season.
Ending their home woes against Pittsburgh takes on even more importance this week as the Bengals try to avoid falling further back in the North. Cincinnati is in last place, but all four teams in the division are separated by just two games.
"We have to approach it just like another football game. But it's a division game. It's at home. They're leading the division," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "That being said, that's where the intensity level is. Those things are important."
Cincinnati picked up an important win last weekend, ending a four-game losing streak with a come-from-behind victory over the New York Jets. The Bengals trailed 23-10 in the third quarter, but outscored New York 28-8 the rest of the way to come away with a 38-31 win at home.
Cincinnati finally got its running game going, even with Rudi Johnson sitting out with a groin strain. Kenny Watson ran for a career-high 130 yards and scored two of his three touchdowns in the second half as the Bengals amassed a season-best 177 yards on the ground.
"It's big," said Lewis, who indicated Johnson may return this weekend. "It's something that for the last three years, we've really looked at hard in this division. To have a chance to be successful in our division, you've got to be able to run the football efficiently. We don't want it to become a one-dimensional game for us offensively."
With the rushing attack working, Carson Palmer attempted a season-low 21 passes, but he completed 14 of them for 226 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Palmer is first in the AFC with nine interceptions after throwing 13 all last season.
He'll be facing a Pittsburgh team that is third in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 174.8 yards per game. That may lead Cincinnati to run the ball even more this week, but the Steelers are also third in the league in rushing defense (75.5).
Pittsburgh tops the NFL in points allowed (13.0) and total defense (250.3), but struggled coming off its bye last Sunday night in a 31-28 loss at Denver.
The Steelers allowed season highs in points, total yards (324) and passing yards (234), and turned the ball over three times for the first time this year.
Pittsburgh, though, did rally from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game before Denver's Jason Elam kicked a 49-yard field goal as time expired to hand the Steelers their second straight road loss.
"I'm real proud of the way the guys came out in the second half," said Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for a season-best 290 yards and had four touchdowns to go with two picks. "We had guys step up."
Roethlisberger attempted a season-high 35 passes and the Steelers ran the ball a season low-tying 26 times, leading some to question first-year coach Mike Tomlin's game plan.
"I don't think it was any different than it is any other week," Tomlin said. "We always come out with the plan we're going to spread the football around, and explore what we're capable of doing to a team, making them defend the entire field horizontally and vertically.
"We win by attrition, we wear teams down over the long haul over 60 minutes and we run the ball. But when you're down 14 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter, you don't have the opportunity to do that and that's the reality of that."
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes said he expects the Steelers to play better this week.
"Coming off of a win and a bye, we just probably weren't focused," Holmes said. "We could have made more plays. Having a bye week kind of hurts you. But at the same time, we just have to stay focused on the game."
Pittsburgh won 23-17 in overtime at Cincinnati on Dec. 31 behind Willie Parker's 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Parker is averaging 117.3 yards and has scored five TDs in four career appearances against the Bengals.
These teams meet again in Pittsburgh on Dec. 2.
By: Staff Writers - Email Us
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