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    Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati Preview


    Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

    The Cincinnati Bengals felt like they let one get away in their season opener, blowing a double-digit lead in the second half of a performance full of turnovers and penalties.

    They'll still head into Week 2 feeling much better than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    After losing three players for the season in their opener and looking inept offensively, the Steelers could have a difficult time continuing their road dominance of the Bengals in this Monday night reunion with former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.

    The AFC North went 0 for 4 in Week 1, a surprisingly empty start from a division that's produced five playoff teams over the past two seasons.

    The Bengals blew an 11-point third-quarter lead, turned it over three times and committed eight penalties - including linebacker Rey Maualuga's personal foul away from the play that allowed Chicago to run out the clock - in their 24-21 loss, but they were by far the North's most competitive team after clunkers from the Steelers, Browns and Ravens.

    "Yeah, it helps ease it a little bit,'' defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. "But you can look at it the other way, too, and say we could've been one up.''

    Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict suffered a knee bruise, but it isn't believed to be serious. The Bengals head into Week 2 mostly healthy and may get left tackle Andrew Whitworth back after he sat out the opener with a knee injury.

    The Steelers' injury report is a bit more extensive. Center Maurkice Pouncey tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee on the team's first drive, linebacker Larry Foote ruptured his biceps and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling also tore an ACL in Pittsburgh's 16-9 home loss to Tennessee.

    With utility lineman Kelvin Beachum having to come in to replace Pouncey for his first NFL action at center, the Steelers' offense managed 195 total yards - including 32 on 15 carries - and didn't score until 1:23 remained.

    "We've got a lot of work to do,'' coach Mike Tomlin said. "Nobody cares about our problems. They're glad we've got them. We need to understand that. We need to stick together and persevere.''

    One Bengal who figures to be particularly unsympathetic to the Steelers' woes is Harrison, the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker and 2008 Defensive Player of the Year who the team released in March when the sides couldn't agree on a restructured deal.

    Harrison, fined six times for a total of $125,000 from 2010-11 for hits the league deemed illegal or unnecessary, said in April he wasn't upset.

    "I don't have a chip on my shoulder against the Steelers," Harrison said. "I don't hate the Steelers. All the things they're saying, that the media is blowing it up to be ... am I disappointed? Yeah, I'm disappointed."

    He was limited to one tackle in the loss to the Bears, but Tomlin is expecting a locked-in Harrison on Monday.

    "We all know how James plays," Tomlin said. "He brings physicality to the table, he's a guy who brings great passion and he can inspire his teammates."

    The Steelers, looking to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2002, certainly fared well in Cincinnati when Harrison was wearing black and gold. They've won 11 of their last 12 at Paul Brown Stadium, including last season's 24-17 victory there Oct. 21 behind Jonathan Dwyer's 122 yards on 17 carries.

    Pittsburgh released Dwyer in its final round of cuts, but re-signed him Monday after Stephens-Howling's injury and Isaac Redman's struggles. Redman is expected to start in Cincinnati, but Dwyer should get some time with rookie Le'Veon Bell likely out at least another month with a foot injury.

    The Steelers have run for at least 100 yards in all 29 of their victories against Cincinnati since 1993.

    "I think a consistent running game is really important, not only to be good offensively, but to strike a balance," Tomlin said. "We haven't been able to do that to this point."

    The Bengals fared well against the run in Chicago, holding the Bears to 2.9 yards per carry, but they did allow a pair of 80-yard scoring drives after taking a 21-10 lead.

    Cincinnati's offense did even better sustaining drives. The Bengals marched for touchdowns of 97, 91 and 80 yards against what was the NFL's fifth-rated defense last season.

    "They didn't stop us one time,'' said receiver A.J. Green, who had nine catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. "They didn't really stop us on offense. We were doing whatever we wanted. The biggest thing we had was turnovers.''

    The Andy Dalton-Green connection has been oddly quiet in Cincinnati against cornerback Ike Taylor and the Steelers. Green has totaled two catches in a pair of home games versus Pittsburgh, though both were for touchdowns.

    Green has 17 catches, 203 yards and 29 targets in two games in Pittsburgh, including 10 grabs in Cincinnati's 13-10 win at Heinz Field in December that eliminated the Steelers from playoff contention. That was the same game Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller tore his ACL.

    Miller, Ben Roethlisberger's top target last season with 71 receptions and eight TDs, has been practicing and could make his season debut Monday.

    Molon labe

    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. George Orwell

    American metal pimped by asiansteel
    Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you 1. Jesus Christ, 2.The American G.I., One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

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    Double Coverage: Steelers at Bengals

    By Coley Harvey and Scott Brown | September 13, 2013

    Ben Roethlisberger must prepare to face former teammate James Harrison for the first time since college.
    Season-opening losses by the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers may have taken a little shine off their "Monday Night Football" clash in Cincinnati, but they actually added to the game’s importance.

    Teams that start a season 0-2 usually don’t make the playoffs and neither team wants to go down that path. The Steelers have never done it during Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach, and they don’t want to start now, especially coming off an 8-8 season and a brutal loss to the Titans last Sunday.

    They will be decided underdogs, and neither I nor ESPN Steelers reporter Scott Brown can remember the last time they have entered a game in Cincinnati in that role.

    Scott joins me for Double Coverage this week. We'll give him the nod to ask the first question.

    Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
    Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Which team will gets its first win of the season Monday night?

    Mike Sando

    Can the Steelers contend minus the run?

    Scott Brown: Coley, everything seems to favor the Bengals in this matchup. They are at home and the Bengals defensive line could have its way with an offensive line that is replacing a Pro Bowler at center ( Maurkice Pouncey) with a player who will make his first start at the position in ( Kelvin Beachum).

    How much of a potential mismatch is there up front, and what should worry the Bengals about the Steelers?

    Coley Harvey : Yeah, Scott, this is really setting up to be a potential nightmare scenario for Big Ben and the rest of Pittsburgh’s offense. If Steelers fans thought they kept seeing Ben Roethlisberger’s career flash before their eyes every time he dropped back against the Titans after Pouncey's injury, then who knows what they’ll be thinking this week. Tennessee a year ago averaged 2.4 sacks per game. The Bengals averaged 3.2. Cincinnati’s entire defensive line is back and arguably better than ever.

    To their credit, though, the Bengals are taking Beachum’s insertion into the lineup seriously. They know that he will be that much more motivated to prove that he belongs and to prove to Roethlisberger that he is more than capable of protecting him against a front that includes Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins, veteran tackle Domata Peko and young, up-and-coming ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap. To understand the motivations of a young backup offensive lineman, the Bengals actually don’t need to look any further than their own reserve tackle, Anthony Collins. Actually, speaking of Collins, are the Steelers aware of how the backup left tackle kept Chicago’s all-world defensive end, Julius Peppers, in check last weekend?

    Steelers at Bengals: Stat of the Week
    The number of yards Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has averaged in four games against the Steelers. His career average is 80.3

    Brown: Wow, yet another thing that doesn’t bode well for the Steelers bouncing back in the second week of the season. The Steelers have to put consistent pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton or it could be a long night for Ike Taylor. The veteran Steelers cornerback gets the, ahem, privilege of shadowing Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, who had a monster game in the opener and is arguably as good as any wideout this side of Calvin Johnson. Nothing would help Taylor more than if the Steelers get to Dalton early and often.

    As well as the defense played in the opener, it allowed Titans quarterback Jake Locker to complete some clutch third-down throws. It also didn’t force any turnovers. The Steelers must win the turnover battle if they are to beat the Bengals, and the defense has to do its part there.

    Speaking of disruptive forces, we should probably get around to talking about James Harrison, as he is playing against the Steelers for the first time, which is a major storyline leading up to the game. Harrison is playing in a different scheme from the one he thrived in for years in Pittsburgh. How has he adjusted and how much of an impact do you see him making Monday night and beyond?

    Harvey: James Harrison is still James Harrison. The guy who was a terror on the field in Pittsburgh and who was a real social butterfly in the Steelers locker room has brought his whole persona with him to Cincinnati. (Even Tomlin shared a good laugh with reporters in Cincinnati earlier this week when he realized on a conference call that we had met the sociable Harrison.) After his finger-flicking, camera-dodging antics on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” Bengals fans were completely won over. They may have hated the guy while he was in Pittsburgh, but now he’s one of their favorites. When it comes to the locker room, Harrison’s teammates respect him and believe in him. They are very optimistic that his presence will be a tremendous benefit to what was already a strong defense.

    Now that it has been six months since Harrison was roaming the halls at Steelers headquarters, what are the folks in Pittsburgh saying about him? How much are people anticipating seeing him face his old club? Oh, and do you think the Steelers’ skill guys like Roethlisberger are ready to feel the hard-hitting justice Harrison used to dole out for them?

    Brown: Harrison will always hold a special place in Steelers history. His ferocious style of play is one thing that linked the recent Steelers teams to the ones that dominated the 1970s and set a new course for a franchise that had once been synonymous with futility. Fans loved him. His teammates loved him. His coaches loved him.

    I’m sure there will be plenty of pleasantries exchanged between Harrison and the Steelers players and coaches before the game and maybe after it. It will be all business between the lines. The Steelers know what they are up against in Harrison, and are very aware how motivated he will be to show his former team it made a mistake by releasing him.

    Roethlisberger actually played against Harrison when the two were in college so that won’t be totally unfamiliar for the Steelers quarterback. One thing the Steelers have stressed is they can’t be too preoccupied with Harrison as there are plenty of other Bengals who can get to the quarterback. Geno Atkins, anyone?

    OK, Coley, here is my final question: Do you see a scenario in which the Bengals don’t win Monday night?

    Harvey: First off, great point about the former Miami (Ohio) and Kent State guys going at it like in their old college days. That’ll be another reason TVs across the Buckeye State will be tuned to ESPN on Monday.

    As for your question -- yes. I do see a scenario in which the Bengals lose. One of two things can happen in the game, right? I’ll admit, it’s a pretty far-fetched scenario, but it definitely exists. Many of us did, after all, go into Cincinnati’s last game expecting the Bengals to roll to a one- or two-score win over the Bears. That didn’t happen. If the Bengals were to lose this week, it would likely be because of a scenario similar to what happened last week at Soldier Field: The opposing quarterback plays out of his mind. Jay Cutler did things against the Bengals last Sunday that he didn’t do all last season. And we all know Roethlisberger has the ability to put this team on his shoulders at any time. It would take a truly special performance, but if Big Ben can overcome the center issue, the Bengals' D-line issue and that whole playing on the road on a Monday night issue, then the Steelers can snatch away a big division win. If not, count this one a win for Cincinnati.

    The final word on Sunday's matchup at Paul Brown Stadium:

    Coley Harvey: The Bengals come into this game as the clear favorite, but questions about their pass rush and team discipline loom large after last week's disappointing 24-21 loss at Chicago. After having eight days to correct those problems, Cincinnati comes out Monday night and sends a loud early message to the rest of the AFC North.
    Bengals 24, Steelers 13 Scott Brown: I asked James Harrison for a prediction during a Thursday conference call, and I so wanted him to go all Clubber Lang on us and say, "Pain." He didn't, nor would he give a score or a winner. I guess I will have to do in that department.
    Bengals 24, Steelers 20

    Molon labe

    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. George Orwell

    American metal pimped by asiansteel
    Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you 1. Jesus Christ, 2.The American G.I., One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

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    Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

    "We all know how James plays," Tomlin said. "He brings physicality to the table, he's a guy who brings great passion and he can inspire his teammates."

    Is this what the Steelers are missing, Head Coach Tomlin ?


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    Steelers notebook: RB Jones gets more work with first unit

    By Mark Kaboly
    Published: Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013

    Offensive coordinator Todd Haley isn't ready to divide up the number of carries he expects out of each of his running backs for Monday's game against Cincinnati. But he is working toward having all three available, including Felix Jones.

    Jones worked extensively with the top unit Thursday in order to get up to speed with the playbook so he can contribute against the Bengals, something he didn't do against the Titans.

    “I am trying to get the plays down and learn the situation and be ready for those,” Jones said. “If you continue to rep and rep, your body gets used to it. It is the best thing to get to learn, and that's what I am doing.”

    Brown off to good start

    Antonio Brown's first game as a No. 1 receiver turned out pretty well. He caught 5 passes for 71 yards and was targeted six times with a little more attention than he's used to seeing.

    “Sometimes they were keeping a guy over the top or a guy underneath,” Brown said. “That's where I have to be better in reacting what I am seeing. Those are things you have to deal with.”

    DeCastro better prepared

    If there's a theme in the Steelers' meeting rooms this week, it's this: Beware the pass rush.

    The Bengals had a team-high 51 sacks last season (the Steelers had 37), and G David DeCastro gave up two to Bengals DT Geno Atkins in only his second career start Dec. 23. DeCastro believes he is much better equipped this time to go against one of the NFL's top pass rushers, and, no doubt, he'll get some help.

    “(I) get another shot. ... That's the thing about football; it's a new game every week whether you play good or bad,” DeCastro said. “I'm more comfortable now.”

    DeCastro didn't allow a sack against Tennessee last week.

    Taylor respects Harrison

    Former Steelers linebacker James Harrison likely won't return to his All-Pro level with Bengals. But to Ike Taylor, who was Harrison's teammate for nine seasons, believes that Harrison provides the intangibles that the Bengals need.

    “Just having that presence, that physical presence — that silverback presence like when you are in the jungle and see that silverback on the Animal Planet — that's pretty big dude. Not too many people play with him, not even humans. That kind of presence.”

    Lewis likes Steelers' methods

    Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis is from McDonald, Pa., coached at Pitt and with the Steelers. So it's no surprise that he looked to the Steelers model on how to run a successful franchise.

    “We're really trying to follow the trend of the successful teams within our division, and they've done the same,” Lewis said. “I think that's important that you do that, that we continue to draft good, young players and develop and hope to try to re-sign them when we can.”

    Allen sits out

    Cornerback Cortez Allen sat out of practice for the second day with a sprained ankle, and running back Le'Veon Bell (foot) and cornerback Curtis Brown (illness) also missed. Nose tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring), tight end Heath Miller (knee) and kicker Shaun Suisham (hamstring) were limited.

    High prices for beer

    It's a tradition for many at a Steelers game: head to the concession stand, hand over a $20 bill for a couple of beers then enjoy the game.

    But this season, a fan will get only small change in return. With 16-ounce brews costing as much as $9, Steelers game day beer prices are the third highest in the NFL, averaging 50 cents per ounce, according to Team Marketing Report.

    Only the Lions (67 cents) and Cowboys (53 cents) are higher. That's the equivalent of $64 for a gallon of beer.



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