The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are fighting not only for their first wins of 2019 but to stay out of the cellar of the AFC North, and so far, a renewed commitment to the ground game is keeping Mike Tomlin’s squad afloat.
Relying on practically everything except passes to wide receivers beyond 10 yards (yes, even in 2019), the Steelers have ridden James Conner and Jaylen Samuels to keep second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph comfortable. The Bengals, meanwhile, have had a few defensive stands and forced an early turnover but are still seeking an explosive play to help them capitalize on solid field position.
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Neither the Cincinnati Bengals nor the Pittsburgh Steelers have a victory through three games of the 2019 NFL season, but that should change on Monday night, as the AFC North rivals clash in prime time.
(“Should” is the operative word there. Considering the way this season has started for both Cincy and the Steelers, is anyone really ruling out the possibility of a tie?)
Few people would’ve been surprised had you told them before the season that the Bengals would be seeking their first win in Week 4, what with new coach Zac Taylor rebooting a team long run — with many mediocre results — by Marvin Lewis and sans an injured A.J. Green. The Steelers, however, are a different story, having gone from potential Super Bowl contender to potential top-five 2020 drafters thanks in large part due to Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury.
That doesn’t mean either side will be without motivation on Monday night in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have shown fight under second-year signal-caller Mason Rudolph, while Cincy has threatened upsets early in 2019, too, despite a shoddy rushing attack, offensive line and secondary. Most importantly, however, the AFC North remains relatively wide open considering the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are tied atop the division at just 2-2. A win to close Week 4 would not only inject some much-needed momentum into either the Bengals or Steelers. It would also propel them right back into the AFC North race, regardless of how unfeasible their long-term postseason chances really are.