The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t exactly gotten off to the hottest start this season, to say the least. It’s been dismal, in fact, the worst in a number of years barring 2013. But the good news is that their next opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, has fared no better, as both AFC North current bottomfeeders bring an 0-3 record into Monday night’s game in Pittsburgh.
With the Baltimore Ravens also playing the Cleveland Browns, it will be an interesting week for the division. While it will guarantee that there will only be one winless team in the AFC North by the end of it, we could also see either a 3-1 team and two 1-3 teams, or a pair of 2-2 teams, the latter being the result of a Browns win. Of course, we’ll know the results of that game by the time the Steelers kick off.
What we already know now, and don’t have to wait for, is that the Bengals will be once again without one of their best players, A.J. Green, who made the Pro Bowl in his first seven seasons before missing it last year in an abbreviated, injury-plagued campaign.
Green played in just nine games last year, and that includes his ill-fated attempt to return from a toe injury that only made it worse and resulted in his spending much of the offseason recovering from said injury. He suffered an ankle injury on the first week of training camp, and he had to have surgery.
At the time, the initial hope was that he would be able to make it back early in the regular season, even perhaps by the Bengals’ Week Four game against the Steelers. Head coach Zac Taylor, however, has already said this week that Green will not practice.
In fact, Taylor declined to even offer a speculative timeline about a possible return for their star wide receiver. His absence has certainly had an effect on their ability to conduct their offense, with the offensive line and running game already serving up sub-par efforts.
One player of note has been 2017 first-round draft pick John Ross, who had been heading toward ‘bust’ discussion. So far this season, he has 13 receptions for 292 yards and three touchdowns, the latter two numbers easily leading the team. Tyler Boyd also has 24 receptions for 249 yards, but has yet to score. Nobody else on the team has yet to record 100 or more receiving yards.
As for the quarterback position, Andy Dalton is completing about 63 percent of his passes, going 81 for 129 for 978 yards, with five touchdown passes to three interceptions. With the run game averaging 2.4 yards per carry, and 126 total yards, the offense has had to carry the team, and it’s clearly not been sufficient up to this point.