Steelers and Bengals renew rivalry tonight

Posted: September 16, 2013 in NFL
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Line1_PROOFBy W.G. Ramirez

The Steelers are trying to avoid a season-opening 0-2 record for the first time since 2002.

If revenge is any sort of momentum, and something you believe in, the Black and Gold should leave Cincinnati with a 1-1 mark. Last year the Bengals went into Heinz Field and clinched the second AFC wild card by knocking off the Steelers and out of playoff contention, with a 13-10 victory.

This is almost a home away from home, for as well as the Steelers play.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger grew up in Ohio and attended nearby Miami University. The towering signal-caller is 14-5 as starter against Bengals all-time, and is quite comfortable in the spotlight game, as he’s also 9-3 in Monday night games.

On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton completed a career-high 78.7 percent of passes in last week’s loss at Chicago, going 26 of 33. And his best target – all-Pro receiver A.J. Green – had his most prolific opener, catching nine passes for 162 yards.

But the biggest spotlight in this game will be on linebacker James Harrison, who will play his first game against his former employer. Harrison left Steeltown when the Steelers wouldn’t agree on restructured contract.

KEY SHOWDOWN: Roethlisberger vs. Harrison

You have to go back to Nov. 24, 2001 to discuss this matchup.

Roethlisberger was the quarterback for Miami-Ohio and Harrison was terrorizing offensive units as a member of Kent State’s defensive squad. And on that Thanksgiving-weekend Saturday, Harrison got the best of Roethlisberger, especially late in the game.

Roethlisberger was hoping to find a wideout somewhere downfield on fourth-and-17 with time running out in the game, and a young imposing linebacker came blasting through to sack Miami’s first-year quarterback to secure Kent State’s 24-20 victory that day. Harrison had a hand in all of the Golden Flashes’ five sacks that day, and he was a big part in clinching Kent State’s first winning season in 14 years.

The two went on to enjoy plenty of success with the Steelers, winning a couple of Super Bowls together.

The rivalry is back on, as they’re not only on opposite teams again, they’re division rivals once again. And tonight this is a great storyline, given how imposing Harrison can be.

If you watched Hard Knocks, you know Harrison is trying to adapt to Cincinnati’s 4-3 defense after playing so many years in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 alignment. What exactly does that man in the simplest of terms? Rather than posting up against a tight end, he has to be more aware of the linemen. The advantage for him is he knows this Steelers offense the nuances, and can anticipate some things.

As for Roethlisberger, he was sacked five times last week against the Tennessee Titans, and Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament. That could spell trouble for Big Ben. And this is ‘family reunion’ he may not be looking forward to.

BY THE NUMBERS: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (-6.5, 41)

Though the Steelers are merely 5-12 versus the line on the road since 2011, they come into their Monday night clash with Cincinnati on winning ATS trends of 4-1 on turf and 12-5 after a straight-up loss.

Cincinnati is on a 1-4 ATS slide on Monday Night Football, and is mired in an all-time 9-20 straight-up mark on Monday nights.

In this series, Pittsburgh had its five-game win streak against Cincinnati snapped, prior to a 13-10 loss last December at Heinz Field, while it is in on a 10-1 SU streak and a 10-1-1 ATS spree in Cincinnati.

ON DECK: Pittsburgh will play a second-straight primetime game next Sunday, while the Bengals stay home.

The Steelers are currently a 1.5 home underdog to the Chicago Bears, while Cincinnati is laying a point to incoming Green Bay.

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