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Offensive line could hold back Steelers

Steel City wake-up call: Morning links

The Steelers are almost a touchdown underdog against the Bengals as they try to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2002. But it is the 0-2 start in 1989 that ESPN NFL analyst Merrill Hoge remembers all too well.

Hoge played running back on the team that was outscored 92-10 in its first two games, and he says that coach Chuck Noll’s belief in the players -- and vice versa -- allowed the Steelers to overcome the horrendous start and make the playoffs. Mike Tomlin faces a similar challenge, especially since he is coming off his first non-winning season as the Steelers’ coach.

History suggests that the Steelers can rise above a slow start as they also made the playoffs in 2002. But Hoge says the Steelers have to overcome more than just a bad game if they are going to right themselves.

The Steelers have some glaring deficiencies that opposing teams will try to exploit, especially along the offensive line. That line faces a monumental task Monday in Cincinnati.

Tomlin reiterated his commitment to establishing the run last week.

But that may not be the way to right an offense that managed fewer than 200 total yards of total offense in a season-opening loss, and not just because the Steelers’ line and running backs are suspect.

A look around the NFL shows that it has become a passing league, and the Steelers' best hope on offense is to put the ball in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s hands.

A stout running game is strongly associated with the Steelers’ glorious past. But is the team’s commitment to it keeping the Steelers from moving forward

Coach speak: Steelers.com catches up with Tomlin, who (surprise, surprise) lavishes praise on the Bengals. One interesting thing the seventh-year coach shares is his take on the Steelers not forcing any turnovers in last week’s 16-9 loss to the Titans.

Double trouble: The Patriots showed how tough it is to defend an offense that has two good tight ends, and the Bengals have two former first-round draft picks at the position in Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert. The two figure to be on the field against the Steelers more often than not, something that could take pressure off Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.

The next step: Quarterback Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons as a starter. Dalton has set the bar higher for the Bengals -- and for himself. If he is rise to the level of elite quarterback he has to start winning in the postseason as well.