Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Expert Pick – November 16, 2023
In a crowded AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) and the Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) both look to avoid being sent to last place in the division. If the playoffs started today the Steelers would have the final wild-card spot locked up.
A win over the Bengals would keep the Steelers firmly in the mix for the division title, effectively ending the Bengals season that continues without star quarterback Joe Burrow who was lost for the season with a wrist injury.
(6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS)
(5-5 SU, 4-5-1 ATS)
When: Sunday, November 26, 2023 at 1:00 PM ET
Where: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Last week’s 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns was a blessing in disguise. Coach Mike Tomlin and the ownership decided to fire offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The Steelers looked well on their way to another comeback victory. With the score tied 10-10 the stage was set for quarterback Kenny Pickett to again save his best for last. This time around the fragility of this style of play reared its ugly head as Pickett threw three consecutive incompletions providing the Browns one last possession to kick the game winning field goal. To make matters worse the Steelers first round quarterback was outplayed in clutch time by a 5th round rookie quarterback in Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Pickett and the offense failing to score on the last drive may have saved their season. A game winning drive would have again masked the ineptitude at the offensive coordinator position. We would not have heard the frustration from running back Najee Harris as there were no featured running plays during the last drive.
“I’m just at the point where I’m tired of this s—t,” Harris said after the game.
The sense around the facility was that Tomlin was about to lose his locker room. The Steelers promoted running backs coach Eddie Faulkner and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan to share in the coordinator duties. Faulkner is great friends with Canada and has made it known that he shares in the responsibility for the offensive struggles.
“Matt Canada is a friend of mine. Like, we’re friends. I care about his well-being. I care about his family, our wives are friends, our parents are friends, our kids are friends. We spent a lot of time together. Love the dude…,” said Faulkner this week. “And so it’s a little bit bittersweet in that way because when you sit back and you see all that goes on, and all that’s being said about him and the offense, we all, and I’m speaking for the offense when I say this, the staff, we all felt that. We’re all part of that.”
They don’t need miracles on offense to make this team a true contender for the AFC North and beyond. The team is in a prime position to make the playoffs with the current 30th ranked offense in the league. If they can just move up those rankings a few spots they have a chance to make some noise.
The Bengals are playing their first game without franchise quarterback Joe Burrow under center. Backup Jake Browning will face an aggressive Steelers defense looking to force him into quick decisions.
Losing Burrow is a disaster for a team that ranks 30th in both offensive rushing and overall defense. They gave up 405 yards and 34 points last week to the Baltimore Ravens.
The offense will need to be balanced as running back Joe Mixon looks to improve on his lackluster season. Make no mistake about it, this team’s identity is having their star quarterback throwing to the likes of Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase. The good news is the offense doesn’t need to be spectacular against a Steelers offense averaging a mere 16.6 points per game.
The decision to relieve Canada of his coordinator duties may have come in large part to the lack of running plays called in last week’s loss to the Browns. With running back Jaylen Warren rushing for 134 yards with only nine carries and zero on the last drive, it was clear that the play calling was suspect at best. The promotion of Faulkner to co-offensive coordinator will fair well for a running game that has been white-hot the last month of the season.
Pickett may have more pressure on him than ever before. While Canada was undoubtedly a problem for this offense, Kenny’s struggles to make simple throws and read defenses won’t be fixed overnight. There is hope that he will regain the confidence witnessed at the end of last year and in the preseason. He can make every NFL throw and has been handcuffed by a conservative system. Expect to see Sullivan call plays exploiting the middle of the field and utilizing play-action.
The key for the Steelers defense is stopping Mixon and the running game. Expect to see linebacker T.J. Watt continue to move around and play different positions to confuse the backup quarterback. It appears rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. will be shadowing Chase in a must watch matchup.
Even with all the drama surrounding the Steelers, it doesn’t come close to the Bengals losing Burrow for the season. The oddsmakers have Pittsburgh on the road favored at -2. Expect a low scoring affair with the Steelers winning 23-16 which will hit the over (35.5).