Steelers hope to drag Bengals down with them

By Darrell Laurant  |   Thursday, December 28, 2006  |  Comments( 0 )

Pittsburgh Steelers
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Normally, a season-ending game between a team still trying to make the playoffs and one that had just been resoundingly eliminated would be no contest. Desire almost always trumps disappointment.

But don't expect that to be the case when the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Cincinnati on Sunday.

The Steelers seem to have more teams that they openly dislike than most franchises (the Browns, the Ravens), but their rivalry with the Bengals has intensified over the past two years.

Pittsburgh not only knocked Cincinnati out of the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl last season, but sent QB Carson Palmer to the hospital on the Bengals' first offensive series. Palmer took a few shots at the Steeler secondary in a later interview with Sports Illustrated, and what was already bad blood curdled a little more.

In other words, the Steelers would love to spoil Cincinnati's season again. Actually, the Bengals did a good job of that themselves last week, losing to Denver on a botched extra point in the snow. The Bengals now need help even beyond a victory Sunday to make it into the post-season.

Yet Pittsburgh had a "revenge game" last week with playoff implications, and were bulldozed by the Ravens for the second time this season.

Although a lot of criticism has been directed toward Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (and with some justification at times), Pittsburgh actually ranks ninth in passing in the NFL with a 230-yard average. Running back Willie Parker is also among the league leaders with 1,360 yards rushing.

One of the primary problems for Bill Cowher's team has been an injury-riddled offensive line that has allowed defenders to pour in on Roethlisberger, often forcing him into hasty decisions even when he's able to avoid the rush.

The other Achilles' heel as been the secondary, which is 17th in the league in pass defense. Last Sunday, the Steelers surrendered 256 aerial yards and three touchdowns to Steve McNair as injury-plagued star safety Troy Polamalu obviously was not himself.

Cincinnati has proven quite vulnerable to attacks from the air, as well. Offensively, however, the Bengals have some serious weapons in Palmer, wideouts T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson and RB Rudi Johnson.

The Steelers are mad as heck at their 7-8 record and would love to take it out on Cincinnati. The question is, is there enough left in the tank to spoil anyone's season except their own?
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