For much of the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been atop the AFC North. After missing the playoffs last year and losing their 2013 season opener, the team’s run as a perennial winner could be in jeopardy.
It was only one game, but Pittsburgh did not look like a contender in Week One. They were defeated by the Tennessee Titans 16-9 at home, accumulating just 222 yards of total offense. The Steelers lost by a touchdown, despite holding their opponent to 125 yards through the air.
In Week Two, the Steelers face one of the conference favorite to reach the Super Bowl when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night.
Traditionally, Pittsburgh has been the better team in this division rivalry. That doesn’t appear to be the case this season, with Cincinnati expected to win the AFC North crown. The Steelers are 6.5-point underdogs as they try to steal a victory on the road. According to RJ Bell of pregame.com, it’s the most points they have gotten while facing the Bengals since 1989.
Cincinnati also started the season with a loss. They had an 11-point lead against the Chicago Bears in the second half, but were unable to hold on at Soldier Field. The Bengals offense eventually stalled and they were unable to score after the midway portion of the third quarter.
Pittsburgh’s inability to score in Week One may only worsen, considering the injuries they’ve suffered. Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling tore his ACL, leaving Isaac Redman to get the bulk of the carries. In seven tries last week, Redman picked up just eight yards. Jonathan Dwyer should see some time at running back, after he was recently re-signed.
The Steelers rushers will be playing behind a banged up offensive line. Center Maurkice Pouncey is out for the year with a torn ACL and MCL. He has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons. That’s not good news for Ben Roethlisberger, who was sacked five times against the Titans.
Linebacker Larry Foote ruptured his biceps and probably won’t take the field until 2014. With all of these injuries, the Steelers probably could have used James Harrison, who meets his former team for the first time. The linebacker signed with Cincinatti in the offseason, following a nine-year stint with Pittsburgh.
The contest is set to begin at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Viewers can watch a free live stream online at espn3.com.
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Pittsburgh 13