A key AFC North clash caps off Week 2 of the NFL season when the Pittsburgh Steelers pay a visit to the Cincinnati Bengals on "Monday Night Football."
Perhaps no team had a more difficult start to the season than the Steelers.
Accustomed to kicking off a new campaign in style, especially at home in Heinz Field, Pittsburgh lost far more than a game in Week 1 when Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker Larry Foote and running back LaRod Stephens- Howling all went down with season-ending injuries during an ugly 16-9 setback against Tennessee.
Things don't figure to get much easier this week for the Steelers when they run into their old friend James Harrison and a strong Bengals front seven.
The Titans scored 16 straight points in Week 1 after return man Darius Reynaud's mental mistake on the opening kickoff resulted in a safety and a 2-0 edge for the Steelers just seconds into the contest. Pittsburgh never capitalized on the early momentum, however.
Ben Roethlisberger completed 21-of-33 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and an interception for the Steelers, who came in with 10 straight victories in home openers, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Pittsburgh, which was held to 32 yards rushing, lost Pouncey and Stephens- Howling to torn ACLs while Foote ruptured his biceps.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "Nobody cares about our problems. They're glad we've got them. We need to understand that. We need to stick together and persevere."
The Bengals, meanwhile, suffered a tough loss of their own but at least came out of it relatively unscathed, because their main AFC North rivals -- the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens -- also suffered setbacks in Week 1.
In fact the AFC North as a whole went 0-4 on Kickoff Weekend, a stark contrast for a group which produced five playoff teams over the prior two seasons. Baltimore was unimpressive again Sunday but beat the Cleveland Browns, making the division a bowling shoe-ugly 1-5 early on.
Chicago's Jay Cutler hooked up with Brandon Marshall for a go-ahead 19-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter in Week a, as the Bears began the Marc Trestman era with a 24-21 victory over Cincinnati at Soldier Field.
The Bengals squandered an 11-point third-quarter lead, turned the ball over three times and committed eight penalties -- with linebacker Rey Maualuga's personal foul the most costly as it allowed the Bears to run out the clock.
"We didn't deserve to win because we had too many penalties and mistakes," Cincinnati nose tackle Domata Peko said. "But I also think we got a feel for what kind of team we have here, or at least what kind of team we can be. Really, we dominated them for three quarters, in my opinion. We've just got to finish."
Cincinnati signal caller Andy Dalton completed 26-of-33 passes for 282 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while A.J. Green grabbed a game-high nine passes for 162 yards and both of Dalton's touchdowns.
"They didn't stop us one time," Green said. "They didn't really stop us on offense. We were doing whatever we wanted. The biggest thing we had was turnovers."
BenJarvus Green-Ellis added a rushing score for the Bengals, who entered the postseason as a wild card club last season.
The Steelers will be looking to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2002 and have certainly fared well in Cincinnati over the years. Pittsburgh has won 11 of its last 12 at Paul Brown Stadium, including last season's 24-17 victory there on Oct. 21 behind Jonathan Dwyer's 122 rushing yards.