The star-power might be lacking as the Cincinnati Bengals hit the road to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football but there’s still reason to believe the matchup between the storied division rivals will be action-packed in primetime.
Both teams are looking for their first wins of the season, entering the game at 0-3. The line for the matchup has the Steelers listed as a 3-point favorite for the game, with the 44.5.
According to Odds Shark, the line initially had the Steelers 8.5-point home favorites when Ben Roethlisberger was healthy, but much has changed on the Pittsburgh sideline. The veteran QB is out for the season and Mason Rudolph is at the helm for the Steelers.
The Bengals got close to their first win of the season last week, but allowed a late Bills touchdown and remained winless. Cincy is far from full strength as well, with their best offensive player A.J. Green being sidelined with an ankle injury that he suffered in training camp.
Let’s take a look at some background, news and advice on who to back in this Monday night matchup.
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Steelers Need Mason Rudolph to Step-Up in a Hurry
Rudolph made his first start in relief of Roethlisberger a week ago, completing 51.9 percent of his passes for 174 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. That becomes even less unimpressive when you realize he had one completing that accounted for 76 yards of that total. On top of that, the Steelers only managed six points off six turnovers.
Head coach Mike Tomlin did hold back when asked about Rudolph’s debut.
“The quality of performance wasn’t what we always wanted or what he wanted, but I did really like his demeanor, his communication, his awareness in the midst of all of that,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes you get a chance to learn things about yourselves and one another in regular-season in-game action. That was good to see he’s a good communicator in the midst of all of those things, and really an accountable guy. A guy that’s comfortable in his skin.
“That’s going to aid him in terms of getting the productivity and a consistent level of production to the direction that he needs and we need in an effort to be successful.”
Rudolph lucky to have one of the best receivers in the game helping him out in Juju Smith-Schuster. He had three catches for 81 yards and 1 touchdown last week.
Bengals Have Played Respectable Despite Severe Lack of Run Game
The Bengals were blown out by the 49ers in their home opener, but have played two respectable games on the road against the Bills and Seahawks. Much of that has been due to veteran QB Andy Dalton doing everything he can in the passing game to keep the team afloat. He’s thrown for 979 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions through his first three games, including a 400-yard performance in Week 1 against the Seahawks. And that’s without Green.
On the ground, Joe Mixon appears to be less than 100 percent and the Bengals have averaged just 42.0 rush yards per game. A 60-yard showing against the Bills last week helped, but Mixon is still averaging a paltry 2.7 YPC.
“We just need to focus on us and what we’re doing,” Dalton said. “Yes, this game means more because it’s a divisional game against Pittsburgh. We’ve had a lot of tough-fought games against them. We’re just trying to do everything we can to get a win this week.”
Bengals vs. Steelers: Trends, Pick and Prediction
The 3-point spread favoring the home team indicates that Vegas sees this game and fairly even.
Here are some trends just to keep in mind, courtesy of Odds Shark:
- The Bengals are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games on the road.
- The Steelers are 2-7 SU in their last 9 games.
- The total has gone UNDER in 5 of the Bengals’ last 7 games vs the Steelers (avg. total: 40.29).
Rudolph’s performance last week was not something to inspire confidence in the Steelers. While Mixon appears a little banged up and Green is still out, the Bengals appear to be the better team at this point.
The Pittsburgh defense will be on the field a lot if Steelers RB James Conner can’t get going. He has less than 100 yards this season. Meanwhile, the Bengals wide receivers John Ross and Tyler Boyd have been capable.
Pick: Bengals +3 or ML
Prediction: Bengals 24, Steelers 13