(CBS Pittsburgh) — The Pittsburgh Steelers are still involved in a playoff race, though you wouldn’t know if from last week’s ugly loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers are 5-5 and within a win of an AFC wildcard spot. But so are the Tennessee Titans. And both teams are looking up at Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts in the wildcard standings. The Steelers stay in the AFC North this week against the win-less Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals are not a good team, which is no great revelation at this point. Their rushing offense is among the League’s worst, picking up just 80.6 yards per game. Their passing offense actually ranks in the middle of the pack, though it’s important to recall that veteran Andy Dalton started at quarterback for the first eight games. Dalton averaged 281.5 passing yards per game. Rookie Ryan Finley has started the last two, averaging just 141 yards. Their defense, as one might expect, also ranks at or near the bottom across a range of stats, from yards to points.
Starting a rookie over the proven veteran signaled the Bengals were officially playing for draft position. It also lowered their chances of finding the win column in 2019. SportsLine‘s Wizard Of Odds Kenny White doesn’t see it happening this week. “I thought they were going to have a chance [to get their first win] against Baltimore, but then they decided not to play Andy Dalton, their veteran quarterback. And they were going to go to a rookie, Ryan Finley. Boy, that really turned out poorly. But they did play much better last week against the Raiders. But I don’t know, this is a tough spot this week. The Steelers coming off a bad one versus Cleveland, and they’re still in a playoff hunt. I’m going to say no, the Cincinnati Bengals remain win-less after this weekend.”
For the Steelers, a win is a win. But the trends, not to mention the history between these two teams, suggest points will be at a premium. According to White, “they’re all low-scoring under trends when you start to look at this. In the series, they’re 6-2 under between the two teams. The Cincinnati Bengals are 8-2-1 to the under their last 11 games in the conference. The Steelers 12-3 to the under last 15 games on field turf. So all the trends are pointing to a very low-scoring football game.” (The Steelers are 6.5-point favorites on the road.)
The Steelers have struggled to score the last two games, and they’ve stalled on the ground when James Conner isn’t healthy. Conner’s status for Sunday is questionable, while wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster looks unlikely to suit up this week. WR Diontae Johnson is questionable as well. Mason Rudolph isn’t going to carry this team on his back. But let’s hope he can muster enough offense to return the Steelers to the win column.
The Steelers play the Bengals Sunday @ 1 p.m. ET on CBS.