Sunday, November 01, 2015

Game 8: Bengals at Pittsburgh

On a day when the Steelers will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Terrible Towel, quarterback Andy Dalton, who currently has the NFL's second-ranked passer rating (116.1), leads the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) into Heinz Field today to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3). Dalton is enjoying a superb year, but until he wins big games consistently, questions about his poise, leadership and talent will remain.

This is a big game. For both teams. Not a playoff game (something Dalton has never won in five tries). But a big game. It's a statement game.

With a win, the Bengals would effectively secure a first-round bye as the AFC North Division's presumptive champs and one of the NFL's best squads. The Steelers must win today game to retain any hope of overtaking the Bengals in the standings. And, as they jockey for a wild-card playoff slot, the Steelers also must worry about their number AFC Conference losses (currently three).

For what it's worth, historically, the Steelers have been less than good in games featuring Ben Roethlisberger's return from time missed due to injury. The team has a 2-4 record in such situations. Roethlisberger has thrown eight touchdown passes in those six games, but also seven interceptions.

Draft-Day Decisions That Have Reverberated Down the Line
Cincinnati's front office and coaching staff have built their current team largely through successful drafts. Over recent years, the Steelers and Bengals have been fairly close in the standings, which means their respective drafting positions have also been in close proximity.

David DeCasstro
Notables who were drafted in the same year, same round: in 2012, guards David DeCastro (first round, 24th overall) and Kevin Zeitler (27th overall); and, in 2014, linebacker Ryan Shazier (first round, 15th overall) and cornerback Darqueze Dennard (24th overall). Dennard may get significant playing time today, if fellow cornerback Leon Hall's back injury keeps him out.

Looking back at the 2013 NFL draft, the Steelers passed on tight end Tyler Eiffert (6'6", 250) to select linebacker Jarvis Jones with the 17th overall pick, despite some observers' concerns, including our own, about Jones's medical history and 4.92 time in the 40-yard dash. The Bengals selected Eiffert with the 21st overall pick.

Myron Cope, father of The Terrible Towel
Not crazy at the time about the selection of Jones over Eiffert, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls wrote"At the very least, let's hope Jarvis Jones can cover Tyler Eiffert, who was snapped up by division rival Cincinnati in the first round.  In our book, Jones and Eiffert will be linked for years to come. Who will be the better player?"

Yeah. Although hampered by injuries during most of their respective NFL careers, Eiffert is having a better year than Jones, no question. He has six touchdowns and 28 receptions for a 12.2 yards-per-catch average.

While Jones and Eiffert were the first-rounders in 2013, the second-rounders certainly cannot be overlooked. The Bengals took running back Giovanni Bernard (No. 37 overall) over Le'Veon Bell (48th overall) in the second round.

Bell is the better running back, no doubt about that. And he's been better than both Eiffert and Jones, for that matter, as well. With their other second round selection in 2013, the Bengals picked defensive end Margus Hunt (53rd overall). The Steelers' next pick that year was wide receiver Markus Wheaton (third round, 79th overall).

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