The Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) are fresh off a bye week but still without wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (hip). The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6) are looking for a Cincinnati sweep and their first winning streak in the Kenny Pickett era after beating the Saints 20-10 last week at home.
The Bengals are a 4.5-point road favorite with a total of 41 points at many of the best sportsbooks. Can the Bengals rewrite that ugly Week 1 loss to the Steelers, or will T.J. Watt lead another domination of the offensive line to complete the sweep?
We have some NFL picks and predictions for this rematch of an AFC North rivalry.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, November 20, 2022 – 04:25 PM EST at Acrisure Stadium
Week 1 Recap: Steelers 23 - 20 Bengals
These teams met in one of the wildest openers you’ll ever see. Pittsburgh’s defense made its presence felt on the first drive by intercepting a Joe Burrow pass for a touchdown with Minkah Fitzpatrick getting the score.
Burrow would go on to turn the ball over 5 times with 4 interceptions and 7 sacks. But even with the Steelers taking an early 17-3 lead, the Bengals came back in the second half after the connection of Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase (129 yards) took over. Tee Higgins left in the first half with a concussion.
For all the good the Steelers did as a touchdown underdog, they were in the position to blow it in the final seconds. Burrow found Chase for a touchdown with 2 seconds left, and the Bengals only needed an extra point to win the game 21-20.
But Cincinnati’s long snapper was injured in the game and a replacement was used. The kicking operation was off its timing, and Evan McPherson’s extra point was blocked by Fitzpatrick to the shock of everyone.
Game Extended to OT
The game went to overtime where the Bengals again seemed to be in good shape for the win, but McPherson’s kick was again off from 29 yards out, a kick even shorter than the extra point.
While Chris Boswell would miss a 55-yard field goal for the Steelers, the defense brought Burrow down for a crucial 7th sack, and the offense got the ball back with one last chance to avoid a tie in the final minute.
Mitch Trubisky did not do much in the game as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback in his team debut, but he made a few big throws to Pat Freiermuth to set up Boswell. The kicker redeemed himself from 53 yards out and the Steelers won 23-20.
It was a stunning upset and a game the Bengals really should have won despite all the poor play by the line and Burrow.
Does Burrow Redeem Himself?
The Bengals are 0-3 in division games this year, so the teams that know them best have had success at limiting this offense after last year’s surprise Super Bowl run.
The good news is the Bengals have 5 turnovers in the last 8 games after turning it over 5 times in Week 1. Burrow has only thrown 2 interceptions since that four-pick parade in the opener.
The bad news is the Steelers just got T.J. Watt back and Minkah Fitzpatrick also could be back Sunday, after missing last week with an appendectomy. This defense has not been that bad when not playing the Eagles and Bills on the road. They should be even better with their studs back in place. Watt was injured in that Week 1 game and only made his return last week to help hold the Saints to 10 points.
It is also not good that Chase is still out for the Bengals. He was great against the Steelers in Week 1. Higgins will have to be great as the No. 1 in Chase’s absence, but this offense works much better when both are available.
Improved Pass Protection
The pass protection has been much better for Burrow since a rough start to the season. His three highest pressure rates were all in Weeks 1-3, though the Browns did manage to sack him five times in Week 8.
Cincinnati had 133 rushing yards in Week 1 against the Steelers, the second most in a game this season for this struggling offense. But in the team’s last game before the bye against Carolina, Joe Mixon rushed for 153 yards and scored 4 touchdowns as the Bengals piled up 241 rushing yards.
Can that be a new norm for this offense until Chase returns? Not likely. The line usually doesn’t block that well.
How Did the Steelers' Offense Fare Last Week?
The other big change in this matchup from Week 1 is rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett taking over for Trubisky. It has been a rough start for Pickett, but against the Saints, he protected the ball well and finished a full game with zero interceptions for the first time. He did not throw a touchdown pass, but he led the first game-winning drive of his career.
One downside was Pickett took 6 sacks for the second game in a row. Many times he just ate the ball, which might be better than forcing a pick. The return of Watt and the expected improvement of the defense keeping the game lower scoring and manageable should be helpful to Pickett’s decision-making, and we already saw signs of that against the Saints.
What surprisingly made it such a good performance for the Steelers out of the bye was the running game. The Steelers piled up 217 rushing yards, easily a season-high. Pickett had 51 of those yards on some scrambles, but even Najee Harris looked good with a 99-yard game. The Steelers had 4 different players register a 20-yard run.
Like the Bengals against Carolina, it is unclear if this offense can run like this more often this season. But that rushing success helped the Steelers pick up 28 first downs, their most in a regular-season game since Week 2 of the 2018 season.
But you’d still like to see more touchdown passes from this offense as it has a league-low six. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson has the most catches (47) in the NFL without a touchdown this year. It would be a risky play, but a good prop pick could be for him to end that scoring drought and score his first touchdown of the season at home. Johnson has scored a touchdown in three-of-six meetings with the Bengals in his career, including both times he played them in Pittsburgh.
Bengals vs. Steelers: Game Prediction
As a home underdog since 2007, Mike Tomlin is 16-5-1 ATS and 14-8 SU with the Steelers. Those records are as good as you’ll find in this league, and they are not beefed up by past success when the Steelers had better rosters.
Pittsburgh is 9-1 ATS as a home underdog since 2018. Maybe 9-0-1 depending on which source you view for the spread against New England this year, a 17-14 loss where the Steelers were either a 3-point underdog or a 2.5-point underdog.
But in those 22 games as home underdogs, the Steelers lost by more than three points just twice. One of those losses was when Tomlin had to start Landry Jones at quarterback against one of the best New England teams in a 27-16 loss in 2016.
The Bengals are still a good football team, but they have played seven of their nine games against quarterbacks who were backups, benched, or injured during the game. Pickett is far from established in Pittsburgh, but there was nothing Trubisky did in Week 1 in Cincinnati that Pickett cannot do here.
Players like Watt and Chase have transformative effects on their teams. With Watt back and Chase out, the Steelers have enough to pull off the sweep at home. At the very least, they should be able to cover like they usually do under Tomlin at home.
Following the NFL odds, take the Steelers with the points, and also, we like the same score as Week 1 to barely hit the over.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.