By Mike Bires
STEELERS (1-1) at BENGALS (1-1)
4:15 p.m. at Paul Brown Stadium (65,515) in Cincinnati
Playing surface: Synthetic
CBS (locally KDKA-TV, Channel 2)
Jim Nantz, play-by-play; Phil Simms, analysis
The Steelers (1-1) will try to win their ninth straight game in Cincinnati and keep pace with the first-place Baltimore Ravens (2-0) in the AFC North.
“It’s a nice streak,” Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “But I don’t think it really factors in what’s going to happen (today). We’re a different team than we were last year, and so are they.”
The Bengals (1-1) sure hope they’re different than the team that finished 4-11-1 last year. In fact, they’re out to prove they have what it takes to challenge the Ravens and Steelers in the division..
“This game is about the big picture: Can the Bengals become part of the picture in their division?” said Phil Simms, who’ll call today’s game as part of CBS’ broadcast team.
“We all know about the history of the Bengals and Steelers. It’s been one-sided. So this is the Bengals trying to judge the division they’re in and realizing how the Steelers and Ravens have separated themselves. They’ve done it with toughness and defense, and the Bengals are trying to become a part of that culture.”
TODAY’S KEY MATCH-UP: MAX STARKS VS. ANTWAN ODOM
Last year in two games against the Steelers, the Bengals didn’t sack Ben Roethlisberger. But now that Odom, a right defensive end, has started the 2009 season with a bang, the Bengals expect the Steelers’ star quarterback to go down a few times.
Odom leads the NFL with seven sacks. He got five of them last week in a win in Green Bay. Thanks to Odom, the Bengals lead the NFL with nine sacks. That’s quite an improvement over the past two seasons when Cincinnati recorded just 39 sacks (17 last year, 22 in ’07), the lowest total in the league.
“He’s on my side, so it’s going to be a very fun game for me,” said Starks, the Steelers’ left tackle who’ll line up across from Odom.
In a series that began in 1970 when the NFL and AFL merged, the Steelers lead 48-30.
The Steelers are 26-13 against the Bengals in games played in Pittsburgh and 22-17 in Cincinnati.
Since Paul Brown Stadium opened in 2004, the Steelers have yet to lose there.
The Steelers have a five-game winning streak against the Bengals. Their last loss to Cincy came on Sept. 24, 2006 in a mistake-filled game that typified a failed Super Bowl defense in which the Steelers finished 8-8.
Last year, the Steelers won 38-10 in Cincinnati and 27-10 in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers will once again be without strong safety Troy Polamalu, who’s going to be out one or two more weeks after suffering a sprained knee in the season opener. Tyrone Carter, who replaced Polamalu last week in Chicago, will start again even though he suffered a deep thigh bruise in the 17-14 loss to the Bears.
The Bengals will be without two third-stringers _ tackle Andre Smith and safety David Jones, who are both sidelined with foot injuries.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I definitely feel bad for Troy because I know he wants to play in this game really bad. But when you keep the opposing team’s best player on the sideline, it makes my job easier.”
_ Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer on facing the Steelers’ defense without Polamalu, his former Southern Cal teammate
The Steelers are favored by 4 points
Steelers 27, Bengals 17