The weather is clear, the air is crisp, and the battle between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati starts this Sunday at 1 PM. We see this game being played between two teams going in opposite directions.
The Steelers are in a transition year. Big Ben is gone and Mitch Trubisky has won the job of being Pittsburgh’s starting QB. For the last two weeks, running back Najee Harris and linebacker T. J. Watt have been banged up while preparing for this upcoming season. Trubisky has brand new receivers who have yet to make their mark on the NFL. After watching the Steelers this past preseason, we feel Trubisky will become the back-up QB and will be replaced by Pittsburgh’s recent first round draft choice, Kenny Pickett. Given these reasons, it’s hard to see how the Steelers’ will be able to keep up with the high-octane offense of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati has a new and improved offensive line that will protect Joe Burrow as well as open up the run game for running back Joe Mixon, wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, and, last but least, Cincinnati’s brand new secret weapon: tight end Hayden Hurst.
Hurst may very well be Cincinnati’s most important offensive player this coming season. We have followed him since his draft in 2018, when he was the 25th overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens (you will recall that this was two spots lower than Mark Andrews, the Ravens’ current star tight end). In the following preseason, Hurst got injured in the third game and subsequently required a screw in his ankle. He was sidelined until Week 11, ultimately being brought back too soon. Then with 2019 being the year of wonders for the Ravens, the emergence of Lamar Jackson, and Hayden Hurst’s recovery, Baltimore’s initial plans to go with a two tight end back fell through.
In 2020, Hurst was traded to Atlanta. He floundered there for two years, re-injured his ankle, and only now is he healthy. This past offseason, Hurst signed with the Bengals as a free agent who can run, block, and catch the ball with ease.
The Bengals were not expected to be in last year’s Super Bowl, which they nearly won. This is a team that’s young, hungry, and ready to give the Bills and Chiefs a serious run for the money to get back to the Big Dance in February.
Cincinnati is favored by 6 1/2 to win at home and we have bought the game down to -5, laying 140 to win 100. We believe this game could also be an easy win for Cincinnati to start their season as defending AFC champs.