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fordfixer
11-12-2009, 03:36 AM
Bires: Denver booted, bring on Bengals

By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sport ... ngals.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sports_details/article/1501/2009/november/10/bires-denver-booted-bring-on-bengals.html)

Tuesday November 10, 2009 12:30 AM

ROYAL FLUSHED: The Steelers' William Gay, left, and Troy Polamalu, right, break up a pass intended for Denver's Eddie Royal, center, during the first quarter Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, in Denver. AP photo by DAVID ZALUBOWSKI

At the midway point of the season, the Steelers appear to be sitting pretty. At 6-2, they’re halfway home toward matching their number of regular-season wins of last year.

But now comes the hard part.

Next up just might be the most pivotal game of their season.

On Sunday, Cincinnati comes to town, and, in case you haven’t noticed, these aren’t the Bungles of old.

Just like the Steelers, the Bengals have six wins. As hard as it is for some to fathom, the Bengals are every bit the Super Bowl contender the Steelers are.

At long last, coach Marvin Lewis has a team that’s talented and tough physically and mentally.

On Sunday, they beat Baltimore for the second time this season with a superb defensive effort and another 100-yard performance by Cedric Benson.

Only twice in the Ravens’ 14-year history has a running back rushed for 100 yards two times in the same season against them. Pittsburgh’s Jerome Bettis did it in 1996, the first year of the Ravens’ existence. Now Benson has done it this year.

No doubt, the Steelers have been impressive lately. They’re riding a five-game winning streak that included wins over three playoff contenders (5-3 San Diego, 7-1 Minnesota and 6-2 Denver).
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But if they don’t beat the Bengals this week, the Steelers may have a hard time repeating as AFC North champs.

The Bengals are already 4-0 in the division, with one of those wins an improbable comeback over the Steelers on Sept. 27. If the Bengals sweep the Steelers, they will in essence have a two-game lead in the AFC North because they would own the head-to-head tiebreaker edge.

After they play the Steelers, the Bengals have three tough games left on their schedule — at San Diego, at Minnesota and at the New York Jets.

The Steelers three toughest tests are home-and-away games against Baltimore and an away game in Miami.

That’s what makes Sunday’s game at Heinz Field so important.

A division champ won’t be crowned after this AFC North showdown. But the winner will definitely be in the driver’s seat.