Wildcard Preview: Steelers & Bengals
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics WriterJanuary 8, 2006
On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Cincinnati Bengals for the fourth game of the 2005-2006 NFL playoffs. Both teams have faced each other twice this season and absolutely hate each other. The competition will be fierce and both teams will take their intensity to a new level. The first time these two teams met each other, the Steelers came out on top on the road. The second time, the Bengals won in Pittsburgh after an offensive explosion. Now that these two teams meet for the third time of the season in the playoffs, who will come out on top?
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Game 1: 9 of 14 for
93 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception. Game 2: 29 of 41 for386 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3
Note: If the Steelers are going to win this game, as they did the
first time, Big Ben cannot be forced to throw the football. It's not
that he can't throw it, but the Steelers are clearly better when they
milk the clock and run the football. Then when Roethlisberger decides to
pass, his options are more open.
Carson Palmer: Game 1: 21 of 36 for 227 yards, 2 interceptions. Game 2: 22 of 38 for 227 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Note: Palmer almost had identical stats in both games, except
that the interceptions and touchdowns were reversed. Palmer will throw
the football and will try to get the ball to his talented receivers down
the field on a consistent basis.
Willie Parker: Game 1: 18 carries, 131
yards, 7.3 avg, 1 touchdowns. Game 2: 15 carries, 71 yards, 4.7 avg. 1 catch, 11 yards.
Note: Although Parker has not had a lot of carries against the
Bengals, he has successfully been able to carve them apart. The Steelers
like to rotate with Jerome Bettis, who had decent success against the
Bengals this year. Pittsburgh must wear down Cincinnati with the running
Note: Johnson will not get a whole lot of carries since Palmer
throws the ball often, but he has had success against one of the best
run defenses in the league. When the Steelers play back to guard the
run, Johnson finds a lot of his yardage on draw plays up the middle.
Game 1: 3 catches, 35 yards, 1 touchdown.
Game 2: 9 catches, 135 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Heath Miller: Game 1: 6 catches, 58 yards, 1 touchdown. Game 2: 3 catches, 44 yards.
Note: The stats may seem surprising. When Ward was not active
really, the Steelers won. When he had an amazing game, they lost.
Regardless, Ward and Miller were Roethlisberger's favorite options
against the Bengals in both games. The Bengals defense will have trouble
covering them, so their schemes will have to be designed accordingly.
Game 1: 4 catches, 94 yards.
Game 2: 5 catches, 54 yards.
Game 1: 7 catches, 75 yards.
Game 2: 5 catches, 88 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Note: Chad Johnson has yet to have a breakout game against the
Steelers this year, but Houshmandzadeh has been able to find a whole in
Pittsburgh's defense. The Bengals will not force the issue with Johnson
if he is not open. If the Steelers leave him one-on-one though, expect
Palmer to take that shot ever time.
Game 1: 2
sacks, 2 interceptions, 13 points.
Game 2: 1 sack, 38 points.
Note: The reason the Steelers lost the second game? No turnovers.
Not a single one. Pittsburgh is one of the best defenses in the league,
but only managed a sack on the stat sheet besides tackles.
Game 1: 1
sack, 1 interception, 1 fumble, 27 points.
Game 2: 2 sacks, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble, 31 points.
Note: Now, the reason the Bengals won? Sure they had offense, but
their excellent field position from clutch turnovers was a major part of
their success. They allow a lot of points, but creating turnover is
El: He is a threat to take it the distance on any punt return,
having 2 touchdowns during the regular season.
Note: The Steelers can count on Jeff Reed and have a fairly
explosive return game.
Tab Perry: Perry has been an
outstanding returner for the Bengals. He establishes good field position
for them consistently throughout the game.
Note: Like the Steelers, the Bengals can count on Shayne Graham
and have a good return game.
Last year, Ben
Roethlisberger failed to come through in the playoffs after an
outstanding start to the season. There is less pressure on him this time
around, because he knows what he feels like to lose and does not want to
go there again. Roethlisberger needs to use his legs in this game to
roll out of the pocket and hit the deep ball to counter the Bengals
Most of all for the Steelers, they must run the football. That is the
foundation of this team, regardless of what others may think. The
Bengals do not have a good run defense, and Willie Parker could take one
the distance. Jerome Bettis has the experience in the playoffs and will
stop at nothing to try and make the Super Bowl in his last season.
Defensively, the Steelers have to find a way to create turnovers. If
they play back on Palmer, they better confuse him with schemes. If they
blitz him, they better make sure they don't leave the slant patterns
wide open. It's just so hard to be a great defense and get beaten by a
great offense. The adjustments that the Steelers make during a no huddle
situation will be what counts.
The Bengals are
back in the playoffs. Although Carson Palmer has been off of his game
the last few weeks of the season, you could tell that the intensity
level of the Bengals was toned down to prepare and get healthy for the
postseason. Palmer posted near-MVP statistics this year, and could be
the next "Peyton Manning" guru on offense that everyone talks about.
The Bengals always come up with excellent run-oriented plays. Rudi
Johnson always has big holes opened for him, and the screen with Chris
Perry works to perfection. However, the Steelers still have a very good
run defense. The Bengals cannot run at will, they must pick their spots
and call different, unique plays.
The main concern for the Bengals is their defense. They did fairly well
in the first half of the year, but they looked horrible almost the
entire second half of the season. The Bengals are not about stopping
yards though, they are about creating turnovers. If the Steelers protect
the ball the entire game, it'll make it very tough for the Bengals
offense to go the entire field during the game.
AFC Wildcard Prediction
Winner - Cincinnati Bengals
When teams face
each other for the third time in a season, you never quite know what may
happen. The game could be comparable to the first two games, or it could
be completely different. I expect this game to be just like the second
game was. Both defenses will seem like they are not even on the field,
as the opposing offenses cruise down the field. Palmer and the Bengals
are more prone to strike quickly, and even if they fall behind, can get
back in the game at any second. The Bengals will advance to take on the
Denver Broncos. Final Score: Bengals 30, Steelers 27.