The Pittsburgh Steelers will again be underdogs when they play the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend. According to the sportsbook VSIN, the Steelers are starting the week as 2.5 dogs to the Bengals. In fairness and context, only one sportsbook has a current line on this game, though it’s likely to be in range with the others.
As was the case for Sunday’s Steelers-Browns game, the over/under is limbo low. A combined 34.5 and the under is very much a possibility, just as it was today when Pittsburgh and Cleveland combined for just 23 points. The initial line was 5.5 points in the Bengals favor prior to Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury but they still have the advantage even after losing him, in part because they’re the home team.
The Bengals are expected to start QB Jake Browning in their first full game without Burrow. Lost for the season due to a torn ligament in his right hand, Burrow threw his final pass late in the first half in Thursday’s 34-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. With the loss of the game and their quarterback, Cincinnati’s playoff hopes are looking dim. They must beat Pittsburgh in order to stay in contention.
On paper, it’s a favorable matchup for the Steelers. But they’re coming off a loss to Browns’ backup-turned-starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson. DTR didn’t make a big impact in the win, throwing for 165 yards and zero touchdowns, but he engineered a game-winning drive that set up K Dustin Hopkins’ go-ahead field goal with five seconds left.
In his first extensive NFL action, Browning went 8-of-14 for 68 yards and a touchdown in relief of Burrow. But the score came in the game’s final seconds with the outcome long decided. Star WR Ja’Marr Chase was taken out of the offense, finishing the game with just two catches for 12 yards and on the receiving end of Browning’s garbage-time touchdown.
Without Burrow, the Bengals will lean more on RB Joe Mixon and their running game. The team’s leading rusher for yet another year, Mixon eclipsed the 600-yard mark in the loss, sitting at 605 yards, four rushing scores, and a 4.0 average on the season. Cincinnati will look to get WR Tee Higgins back after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. Defensively, they’re led by DE Trey Hendrickson, LB Logan Wilson, ex-Steelers CB Mike Hilton, and S Dax Hill. Overall, the defense has taken steps back after losing top safety pairing Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates in the offseason.
This will be the first matchup between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati this season. Last year, the two teams split their season series with the Steelers pulling off a Week One overtime upset before Burrow got revenge midseason with a 37-30 win. Next week’s game figures to be considerably lower scoring.