Steelers vs. Bengals Expert Pick – December 23, 2023
STEELERS VS. BENGALS EXPERT PICK – DECEMBER 23, 2023 – The Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) in their final regular season matchup in a must-win game for both teams.
The Steelers find themselves on the outside looking in after a disastrous three game losing streak.
The Bengals have found new life with quarterback Jake Browning playing exceptionally well filling in for Joe Burrow who is lost for the season.
(8-6 SU, 6-6-2 ATS)
(7-7 SU, 7-7 ATS)
When: Saturday, December 23, 2023, at 4:30 PM ET
Where: Acrisure Stadium
Miracle on 3400 South Water Street (Steelers corporate office!)
When these team met just four weeks ago it was Browning’s first career start and the first game after offensive coordinator Matt Canada was fired by the Steelers.
Pittsburgh racked up over 400 yards for the only time this season winning the game sending the Bengals home with a 5-6 record.
It sure felt as if the Steelers were a lock for the playoffs and the Bengals would be sitting out the postseason waiting for Burrow to return next year.
Fast forward to Christmas week and the Steelers team is in complete disarray after losing the last three games. There is a sense that coach Mike Tomlin has lost the locker room and calls for his ouster from fans and media have never been louder.
“All right man, let’s be honest – we’re a fundamentally poor football group right now,” Tomlin said. “We’re playing losing football and I take responsibility for that.”
When Kenny Pickett went down with an ankle injury against the Arizona Cardinals there was hope and downright confidence among some of the Steelers’ faithful that backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky would perform as well or better.
This was not the case as he was an absolute disaster throwing for 632 yards, four touchdowns, five interceptions with a 33.5 QBR according to ESPN.
Tomlin finally had enough and benched him at the end of the Indianapolis Colts game last week for Mason Rudolph.
It seems appropriate and fateful that Rudolph is here to potentially save the Steelers season two days before Christmas. The team needs some holiday cheer after a week of storylines involving players quitting, coaches being fired and the playoffs all but slipping away.
Bengals Keys to Cover
Browning won’t have the luxury of throwing to his top receiver as Ja’Marr Chase is out with a shoulder injury.
It may not matter as the Steelers injuries at the safety position are mounting up with Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee), Damontae Kazee (suspension), Keanu Neal (IR) all ruled out for the game.
The receiving unit is still talented with Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Trenton Irwin fully capable of exploiting an injury depleted defense.
The Bengals defense comes in ranked 30th in yards per game but has played better in recent weeks. They will rely on DE Trey Hendrickson to continue his dominance in a season where he already has a career-high 15 sacks.
Steelers Keys to Cover
With the injuries to the defense well documented it is fundamental to limit their exposure on the field this week. The Steelers have been most effective when running the football.
They averaged over 375 yards rushing in a three game span this season and will need to implement a run-first strategy to have a chance of pulling off the upset.
This will also take the pressure off Rudolph who hasn’t started a game in two years. Look to see Jaylen Warren take most of the carries over a struggling Najee Harris.
The hot topic of “fading” your favorite team came up again on last week’s episode of Godzilla Wins Live as the recommendation from this article was to pick against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even though this ended up being the correct pick, helping thousands upon thousands of readers pay for Christmas, it felt downright dirty. There will again be times when “fading” the Steelers is the correct play. Not this week, Mason Rudolph leads his herd of festive men to a 26-22 victory over the Bengals.