Early season divisional matchups are always important, but tonight’s game between the Bengals and the Steelers holds particular importance for the teams involved. The winner will keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North, but the loser will fall a game back in a division that could very easily be decided by a tie-breaker at the end of the season.
The Steelers are in a near must-win scenario. Dropping two games to open the season would put the Steelers in a position in which they would need to dig their way out of an early-season hole. The problem is, with the Steelers’ offensive line, digging out of such a hole may be nearly impossible.
The AFC North is something of a puzzle to solve. The Baltimore Ravens scraped out a win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but they didn’t do so in a convincing manner. The Bengals are the division’s “yeah but” team, and the Steelers are always competitive, but their roster has aged significantly in recent years with little new talent.
Tonight’s game isn’t necessarily about establishing a dominant, early-season lead in the division. Tonight’s game is all about staying in positioning. The Steelers are just trying to get their feet under themselves after their week one loss to the Titans. The Bengals are trying to get themselves back on track as the divisional favorite.
While tonight’s game isn’t a make-or-break game by any stretch of the imagination, it does hold some importance. The loser will drop to 0-2, and considering both teams involved are thought to be playoff caliber squads, this game will put a major dent in one of the these teams’ playoff hopes.