Since opening in 2000, the Steelers have lost all of once in the kitschy jungle-printed hovel that is Paul Brown Stadium, with the only loss coming back in 2001. Including the playoffs, during that 7-1 stretch the Steelers have outscored Cincy by an average of nearly 28-17.
That being said, the Bengals are coming off a possible game-saving win over the Jets, while the Steelers dropped a Najeh-sized turd on the field of Mile High Stadium. Haven been given so many favors by our mediocre AFC North rivals, this is not a game the Steelers can afford to lose. A win in this game could not only ensure that that the Ravens don't catch the Steelers, but it may but the Bengals down for good.
A lost Bengals season may very well mean a lost Chad Johnson. ESPN was floating rumors that the Bungles are considering trading Ocho Cinco in the offseason. Naturally, Marvin Lewis made an attempt to quash that, but this quote from Chad didn't help anything.
"You know what's funny, every player -- you've got 31 teams in the NFL beside us – every player, every coach loves eighty-five," he said in reference to his jersey number. "I guarantee that. Every coach and every player would love to have eighty-five on their team because they know what I bring to the table."
I would imagine the offensive gameplan shouldn't be much different than what the Steelers would have been better off employing against the Broncos: large doses of running the ball. The Bengals linebacking corps is still woefully depleted, and even when healthy, isn't particularly imposing. Like Denver, they should crowd the line, and even though Leon Hall has looked impressive early on, neither he nor Deltha O'Neal is as good as Dre Bly.
Two salient improvements that the Steelers will need to make will be with the pass rush and the offensive line. Jay Cutler was given incredible amounts of time to throw and burned the Steelers with his mobility when he was pressured. Though Cutler isn't the best scrambler in the league, Palmer isn't even that nimble. But given the kind of time Cutler got, he'll do a lot more damage. Hopefully, a positive prognosis on Aaron Smith is forthcoming.
UPDATE: Smith is listed as doubtful for Sunday. Hot damn.