NFL 2019 (Week 4): Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 4): Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

Both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers enter this game in search of their first win. Both teams have lost two single-score games and been blown out once (Cincinnati by San Francisco at home, Pittsburgh at New England). Bengals rookie head coach Zac Taylor is trying to put his fingerprints on a new team, while Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin may be feeling the heat amid recent struggles. Andy Dalton is third in the league in passing yards through three games, but Ben Roethlisberger will miss the rest of the year after injuring his elbow. Second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph has been serving as the starter since his departure. While all NFL games have some degree of unpredictability, this one in particular could literally play out thousands of different ways.

Bengals: Taylor must be pleased with his passing game in the absence of star wide receiver A.J. Green, who has not played in a game since he injured his ankle in camp. Former first-round pick John Ross III has shown game-breaking speed in Green’s absence, hauling in three touchdowns on an insane 22.5 yards per catch. Taylor’s running game, however, has done nothing to ease the pressure off of Dalton and Ross III. Running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard are averaging under three yards per carry while Dalton has scored the team’s only rushing touchdown this season. Sam Hubbard leads the defense with two sacks, although they have only accounted for five thus far. Hubbard, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins must make Rudolph feel uncomfortable for their team to steal a road win against their AFC North rivals.

Steelers: Mike Tomlin has won a Super Bowl title, had his team play in another and won the AFC North in six of his 12 full seasons at the helm. So how in the world could he be on the hot seat? Well, his team is 2-7 in their last nine games, dating back to November, the poor optics of locker room ugliness with now-departed Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell don’t help his case and an atrocious showing in their first game against New England showed a vast disparity between the two franchises. The Patriots look as good as they ever have, yet the Steelers will be lucky to even sniff playoff contention. Tomlin’s organization has famously had only three head coaches since Chuck Noll took over in 1969, so these decisions are not made lightly. To save his job, though, Tomlin needs to inspire some hope in his 13th season. Even the vaunted Pittsburgh defense doesn’t resemble its old self, ranking 29th in yards allowed per game (442.0) and 28th in points (28.3) entering Week 4. Failure to beat Cincy could mean a winless record going into the Week 7 bye (Pittsburgh hosts Baltimore and travels to the Chargers in its next two games). Would over a decade of good will save Tomlin’s job at 0-6? Those in the Steel City hope it doesn’t come to that.

Prediction: Expect Dalton to carry the Bengals’ offense yet again, barely outdueling Rudolph to win a sloppy matchup.

Cincinnati Bengals 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 13

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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