Final score predictions for Bengals vs. Steelers

·3 min read
Final score predictions for Bengals vs. Steelers

It’s starting to feel like now-or-never time for the Zac Taylor era with the Cincinnati Bengals as a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers looms today.

Taylor’s Bengals are only 1-1, but he’s 7-26-1 outright. There’s a lot of detail behind the scenes that builds into that bad overall record, but on a Sunday like this it all boils down to one thing — can the roster and culture he’s built go into Pittsburgh and win?

This version of the Steelers certainly looks exploitable, at least. They’re 1-1 after beating Buffalo to start the season before going down to Las Vegas. Ben Roethlisberger has only completed 62.5 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and one interception behind an atrocious offensive line. First-round back Najee Harris has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Diontae Johnson won’t play and the defense will miss elite pass-rusher T.J. Watt.

Still, much has to go right for the Bengals to win in Pittsburgh. They needed until the very last second in overtime to squeak past Minnesota in Week 1, then lost on the road in Chicago. After, players like Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow commented on the conservative offense Taylor called. It wasn’t long before word broke that Burrow had talked with Taylor about it.

While the play-calling that limited deep shots down the field really hurt the offense in Week 2, it doesn’t help that the interior of the offensive line continues to grade out miserably. And now it loses some consistency with rookie Jackson Carman stepping into the starting lineup.

An offense willing to take more risks down the field, especially with how good Chase has looked, should give the Steelers problems. Then again, Tee Higgins isn’t expected to play.

The defense, at least, should be able to put up another strong performance on the road. The pass-rush has looked great and Big Ben looks more lost than usual so far. Contain the run well and there could be aerial mistakes for Jessie Bates to exploit as the pass-rush hits home, even if Trae Waynes is out yet again.

This could easily be a game where the defense carries the team to a win. But it sure wouldn’t hurt if the offense took more shots to Chase and gave Burrow a moving pocket to better navigate the pass rush and become less reliant on a shaky line. He was the league’s most accurate intermediate passer last year, so as long as he’s avoiding Steelers star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, he should excel in the middle of the field.

To Taylor’s credit, the team hasn’t come close to looking like one that has quit. These Steelers are exploitable and if nothing else, Burrow has a clutch gene that’s impossible to ignore. That could come up big late as the defense carries the day.

Prediction: Bengals 27, Steelers 23

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