Sports Today: What are the Bengals’ chances in Pittsburgh?

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Sports Today: What are the Bengals’ chances in Pittsburgh?

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Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 28: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass in front of James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field on December 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

This is a big weekend for the Cincinnati Bengals as they are set to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh. 

Maybe I’m still scarred from the way the first two games went. Maybe it’s the lingering effect of too many past disasters against the Steelers. 

Whatever the case, I have a hard time picking the guys in tiger stripes this time around.

I’m encouraged by the way the Bengals have played in their last three games, but the Steelers are coming off a win over what was then the NFL’s only undefeated team. 

And yet before that Pittsburgh got embarrassed by Jacksonville. They’ve also lost to the Bears while their wins have come against the terrible current Browns in Cleveland and the so-so old Browns in Baltimore. 

One of these days, the Bengals are going to have to draw a line in the sand and say, “No more. This is our division now.” 

Are these the guys to do it? 

Andy Dalton doesn’t seem built that way, but more worrisome is Cincinnati’s soft offensive line. 

One has to love how the Bengals defense is playing no matter who is the opponent, so that should make this one a slugfest. 

It will probably come down to which quarterback makes the play his team needs in crunch time. 

With Ben Roethlisberger’s up-and-down season so far, maybe the difference will be a big error by one of the signal-callers (we’ve seen him make game-losing plays against the Bengals before). 

Also working in Pittsburgh’s favor: If the Steelers get the lead, they can bleed the clock with an effective running game. The same can’t be said if the Bengals go out in front early. 

Mike Tomlin’s team just seems to have more outs at this point in the season. 

I’m going to go with Steelers 21, Bengals 10. 

Here’s something that could be a surprise but maybe shouldn’t be: A.J. Green says Steelers safety Mike Mitchell is not a dirty player

That viewpoint is at odds with many league observers, but then again Green is all class all the time so expecting him to say something negative about a fellow football player is probably a mistake. 

Mitchell might not be a headhunter… but he sure plays like one. 

There’s no denying the former Ohio Bobcat has taken some questionable shots at guys throughout his career. 

Is he trying to hurt people, or was he just never taught the right way to play? 

He says he sleeps fine at night, so it might be the latter. 

If it is, he’s not the only Steeler. 

Ryan Shazier arrived at Ohio State with terrible fundamentals, and he still has a bad habit of leading with the crown of his helmet — a play that is far more important to eliminate than some of the questionable stuff that draws flags these days. 

But then one could argue he’s just carrying on the legacy of the “ageless” James Harrison, who once admitted he thinks you can only tackle guys by the head or the knee (0 for 2 there). 

While Vontaze Burfict is a marked man for his play (he’s done plenty to earn that reputation), one gets the impression watching the Steelers there is no effort whatsoever there to try to adhere to the new way the NFL wants teams to play. 

Whatever one thinks of some of those new rules (and some of them are bad, in my opinion), it’s troubling to see teams seem to be held to different standards… 

The Chicago Cubs have a new World Series drought started after being eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers last night. 

Maybe I jinxed them with this column last year, but I wouldn’t bet against them being October fixtures for the foreseeable future with their depth of young talent. 

Meanwhile, the Dodgers won their first pennant since 1988. 

Does that stir any old feelings in Reds fans who remember those old National League West battles with the boys in blue? 

Or are you happier to see the team that has been more annoying lately embarrassed so publicly?  

Baseball’s final four offers a reminder of the advantages of being in the biggest markets (New York, Chicago, L.A.), but the Astros offer some hope. 

They built that team from the ground up, something the Reds are hoping they are nearly finished doing. 

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