Sunday, November 13, 2011

Game Day: Bengals Edition -- Who Dey?

Is it too much to ask for a defensive takeaway?
First and foremost, a simple request of the Steelers' defense: Would it be too much to ask you to make some interceptions and recover some fumbles today?!

The Steelers have forced only nine takeaways this season -- the lowest total through nine games in NFL history!

Now, put yourself in the position of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.Your rookie quarterback faces the Pittsburgh Steelers and Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense today. Rookie quarterbacks are 1-11 vs. the Steelers since 2004. This year, Cincinnati is 6-2 but has just one win over a team with a winning record (Buffalo).

If you were Marvin Lewis, what sort of game plan would you and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden devise for Andy Dalton and your offense?

A safe game plan? ... or risk-taking? NFL coaches are like actuaries. They assess all the risks. They take calculated gambles. What's the job of an NFL coach? Put  your players in position to win. To do that, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls surmise, Marvin Lewis will rely largely on his running game. Cincinnati has three fine running backs, Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard, all of whom have hurt the Steelers in past games.Ergo, for the Steelers to win today, just like every Sunday, the Steelers must STOP THE RUN.

Simple as that. More so today than any game this year except perhaps for the one against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also started a rookie quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, and relied largely on running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

Granted, Dalton has been very good this season, and he is getting better as the season proceeds. Dalton is poised, accurate, mobile, and he has shown excellent anticipation in his throws, as well as astute ability to read defenses.

Mean Joe Greene will be watching today.
Still, he has not faced a defense like Pittsburgh's ... although, it must be said, this year's edition of the Steelers' defense is not the Steel Curtain. At various times this season, it has been exposed as vulnerable, leaky and porous -- especially in the season opener at Baltimore; also in Houston; during several games the Steelers won; and most recently and glaringly in the national spotlight, last Sunday night's lamentable last-minute collapse during Joe Flacco's 92-yard game-winning drive at Heinz Field.

The Steelers lead the all-time regular season series with the Bengals, 49 wins to 32 for Cincinnati.That has little to do with today's game, however, and as Coach Tomlin said earlier this year, "There's a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes."

Go, Steelers!
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