The Bengals (0-3) play against their first AFC North opponent of the 2019 season this coming Monday night in prime time when they take on the 0-3 Steelers in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers have been the Bengals most hated nemesis over the past 15-20 years as most matchups during that span have been bloodbaths with the Steelers coming out on the winning end in most cases. This year both teams face each other still looking for their first win after three games but everyone in the media still seem to be picking the Steelers to win despite not having quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It all makes sense given that the Steelers are the more successful and more talked about franchise with 6 Super Bowl championships. They also boast an all-time record of 64-35 against the Bengals and a 24-7 win-loss advantage since 2004. ESPN’s panel of 10 NFL experts are leaning towards the Steelers in this next matchup as 8 out of 10 are predicting the Steelers to win on Monday night.
Over the years Bengals fans have seen Cincinnati go toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh but they have also witnessed the Bengals flounder in most of those games due to a lack of mental toughness or lack of composure in response to dirty play from the team in yellow and black. In 2018 the Bengals were within a score of beating the Steelers in both matchups but couldn’t finish them.
This season the Bengals have a new head coach and coaching staff and we’ve all seen the “New Dey” marketing slogan around the team. While there have been many refreshing aspects of this new regime of coaches leading the team it has not translated to wins on the field yet. One way to show that it is truly a “New Dey” would be for the Bengals to go into Pittsburgh in a prime time game and win on the road, even against a bad Steelers team without their starting quarterback.
In my mind the key to coming out with a win is for the Bengals to have the right mindset heading into the game. Yes, emotions will run high, there will be nerves, there may even be some dirty play or cheap shots during the game. But with the majority of expectations from the media, and those outside of this Bengals team, being that the Steelers will come out with a win, the Bengals should come into it thinking: “we’ve got nothing to lose”. When one has this kind of mindset they often perform looser and with more confidence. I believe head coach Zac Taylor has the team believing in each other and holding themselves accountable for the areas where they have struggled so far this season. If the Bengals can keep believing in each other, holding each other accountable, learning from past mistakes and combine all of that with a “we’ve got nothing to lose” mindset, then I think they will play well enough to win on Monday night in Pittsburgh. If the Bengals come into the game feeling that the weight of the world is on them, letting their emotions get the best of them and putting too much pressure on themselves, then simply put, they will not win this game.
The Bengals have the talent to beat the Steelers. The coaches seem to have the players buying in. But the talent and belief in each other has yet to fully translate the way they want during games. It is also yet to be seen if we will see the same issues that have plagued past Bengals teams when they play the Pittsburgh Steelers under this new coaching staff. In watching this game on Monday night my focus will be on these 3 things that are all by-products of having the right mindset:
- 1) how loose and confident players appear (do they appear to be playing tight or afraid of making a mistake)
- 2) how they respond to adversity when they give up a big play or make a mistake (do they appear to be fighting back in a good way)
- 3) how they respond to dirty plays or cheap shots by the Steelers (are they taking cheap shots back or getting called for stupid penalties, are the Steelers in their head)