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Benz: No clear favorite in tonight’s Steelers – Bengals Tilt

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STEELERS – BENGALS UP FOR GRABS

It shouldn’t be this hard.

It really shouldn’t.

It shouldn’t be this difficult to pick the Steelers to win their Wild Card game in Cincinnati tonight. After all, Ben Roethlisberger has only lost twice in Paul Brown Stadium. His opposing quarterback, A.J. McCarron, will be making his NFL playoff debut as a starter. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990.

All the history says bet on the Steelers. But what matters most, the present, suggests this game is up for grabs…or it may even tilt in favor of Cincinnati. In fact, for every argument you present in favor of the Steelers, there’s a “yeah, but…” which should give you pause.

THE BENGALS ARE PLAYING WITHOUT THEIR STARTING QUARTERBACK: Yeah, but…is that as bad of a thing as it may appear on the surface? Andy Dalton’s playoff history is bad. He’s got an 0-4 record, with a 1-6 TD/Int ratio and a 57.8 passer rating. And if Dalton were to play injured and rusty instead of McCarron, that may be a better situation for the Steelers anyway.

Also, while Dalton is out, the Steelers are down to their third string running back. And the Bengals are getting back Tyler Eifert (played less than a quarter vs PGH 12/13) and Adam Jones (missed 12/13).

THE STEELERS HAVE THE BETTER QUARTERBACK: Yeah, but…is he actually playing better? No. Not lately. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown a pair of interceptions in each of his last three games. He’s also thrown six TD’s. And his yardage totals dwarf McCarron’s. But McCarron hasn’t thrown a pick since he played against the Steelers in game thirteen. So while he’ll be less dynamic throwing, he may be more careful with the football. And Roethlisberger seems to be particularly mistake prone against the Bengals. After Antonio Brown and Heath Miller, Cincy safety Reggie Nelson appears to be Roethlisberger’s third favorite receiver. He has six interceptions against Big Ben in their last seven match ups.

HEATH MILLER KILLED THE BENGALS THIS YEAR!: Yeah, but… AJ Green kills the Steelers. His last four yardage totals against the black and gold have been 132, 118, 82, 224. He’s scored in three of those games. Green has 25 more catches vs the Steelers over the course of his career than anyone else (69). He has also has career highs in yardage (937) and TDs (6) vs Pittsburgh. Heath’s back-to-back 10 catch games against Cincy have been nice. But the Bengals will allow that if it means less damage from the Steeler wide outs. Pittsburgh can’t allow Green to go nuts again.

The Steelers have the third highest sack total in the AFC (and NFL) and they have the third highest takeaway total: Yeah, but… Only two teams in the AFC allowed fewer sacks than the Bengals (32). And only three teams in the NFL had fewer giveaways (17). Oh, and by the way, the Steelers have climbed up all the way to 8th in giveaways with 30.

MARVIN LEWIS HAS NEVER WON A PLAYOFF GAME: Yeah, but…Mike Tomlin has never won one on the road.

I see the final score being 22-20. And I’m picking the Steelers. Yeah, but…I feel awfully shaky about it.

About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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