Bengals, Steelers Facing Pivotal Week 2 Monday Night Matchup After Rough Starts to Season

A.J. Green,  Andy DaltonThe Cincinnati Bengals have never made the playoffs three years in a row. The Pittsburgh Steelers have never missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons under coach Mike Tomlin. Those possibilities are both in play Monday night. While it’s only Week 2 of the NFL season, history shows that the loser of Monday night’s Steelers-Bengals matchup in Cincinnati is likely to be watching playoff football from home.

Since 1990, only about 12 percent of teams that have started the season 0-2 have made the playoffs. Barring a tie, either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati will be staring at that number by around midnight. The Bengals are seven-point favorites at Bovada with a total of 41 and live betting.

The Steelers looked really bad in Week 1, losing 16-9 at home to a Tennessee team that led the NFL in points allowed a year ago. Pittsburgh scored on a safety three seconds in, but its offense didn’t find the end zone until 1:23 remained in the game. The Steelers managed 195 yards of offense in losing their first home opener since 2002.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line was a big question entering the year, and it’s a bigger one now. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times, and the Steelers lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. In addition, starting linebacker Larry Foote, who makes the defensive calls, and backup running back LaRod Stephens-Howling are also now out for the year. Pittsburgh might be looking at much worse than an 0-2 start, as its next three games are against 2012 playoff teams.

The Bengals are kicking themselves for giving away a game at Chicago in Week 1. They led 21-10 late in the third quarter before the Chicago offense woke up and the Bears won 24-21. Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga committed a silly personal foul away from the play with 1:06 left in the game that gave Chicago a first down when the Bengals would have gotten the ball back with a chance to tie or win.

Cincinnati also turned the ball over three times. Andy Dalton was picked off twice but otherwise was good, going 26-for-33 for 282 yards with two scores. A.J. Green showed why he’s the AFC’s best receiver, catching nine balls for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Monday’s game starts a tough stretch for Cincinnati, as the Bengals host Green Bay, visit Cleveland and host New England next. A loss would be devastating.

The Bengals and Steelers split two meetings in 2012. In Week 7 in Cincinnati, the Steelers won 24-17 as one-point favorites. Pittsburgh’s defense held Cincinnati to 185 total yards. Dalton threw for just 105 yards, and Green caught one pass. Roethlisberger threw for 278 and a touchdown. Jonathan Dwyer, who was brought back by Pittsburgh last Monday after being cut before Week 1, rushed for 122 yards.

In Week 16 in Pittsburgh, the Bengals won 13-10. Josh Brown‘s 43-yard field goal with 43 seconds left won it and clinched a playoff berth for Cincinnati. Dalton threw for 278 yards (116 to Green) but had no touchdowns and two interceptions. Roethlisberger threw for 220 yards with a touchdown and two picks and was sacked four times. The teams combined for 438 yards and six turnovers. It was the Bengals’ first win over Pittsburgh since 2009.