• Head-To-Head: Steelers vs Bengals

    Week 14 brings you a pivotal matchup in the AFC North. The Bengals are holding on to a 1.5 game lead in the division, but all that can change on a dime. Win, and the Bengals practically have the division locked up with 3 games to go unless something dramatic happens.

    In come the Pittsburgh Steelers, who can't afford to lose this one. Not only would it put the Steelers 2.5 out of the division, but likely 2 games or more back in the Wild Card race as well. While this one game won't decide the AFC North, we're going to see a big part of the picture come Sunday evening. Besides this game, Cleveland and Baltimore have daunting games this weekend against Indianapolis and Miami, respectively.

    Brian, what's the most important thing for the Steelers to do Sunday to pull out the win?

    In a word—pressure. On both sides of the ball. On offense, the Steelers have to come out challenging the Bengal defense from the start. Establishing Le’Veon Bell is obviously a key, especially considering that Burfict is still out. The Bengals have been outstanding against the run in the past 3 games, but Bell is a different animal, and should also be able to take advantage of a Bengal D that struggles in defending RBs coming out of the backfield in the passing game. I’d also like to see them go no-huddle, and take a couple of shots early, whether to AB or to Martavis Bryant. They should also be able to exploit the middle of the field with Heath Miller. The Steelers have a tendency to try and get too cute on offense, which tends to stagnate them, so I’m looking for them to show a sense of purpose from the start, dictate the tempo, and jump out to an early lead.

    On defense, again, the word is pressure. They have to make Andy Dalton uncomfortable early, much like they did last year in that Sunday night game in Pittsburgh. The Steelers had only 1 sack in the game, and 0 TOs, but he was feeling pressure that wasn’t actually there all night. If they can get Dalton to hurry through his progressions, and feel the pressure, whether real or perceived, they’ll be in great shape. James Harrison is doubtful, but both Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier are expected to be back, which will hopefully help their pass rush.

    1181, the same question to you... What's the most important thing the Bengals need to do Sunday to come up with a big victory?

    I think the biggest thing obviously is to protect Andy Dalton. While the Bengals aren't at full strength, they still have a lot of weapons that will be on the field come Sunday. They need to give Dalton the time to get the ball to those weapons so that they can take advantage of the missing pieces on the Steelers defense.

    As a secondary matter of importance, the Bengals absolutely must contain Le'Veon Bell. If they let him loose, that may decide the game. Thankfully the run D has been a lot better the last 3 weeks, limiting foes to 3.1ypc. If they can limit Bell both running and receiving, I like their chances.

    What concerns you most about the Bengals?

    Brian: The Bengals are 7th in the league in rushing attempts, while the Steelers have allowed the 4th fewest attempts in the league. The Steelers allow under 100 yards per game on the ground, but a large part of that is because they’re only allowing just over 20 rushing attempts per game. If the Bengals remain patient on the ground, not only will they find success, but it will open up play-action, and the Steelers have been burned for passing TDs of 67, 80, and 69 yards over their past 3 games. They’ll have a tough enough time stopping AJ Green as it is. If they’re forced to also account for the run, limiting the pressure they can create on Dalton, the Steeler secondary will have no chance.

    What should be the Bengals' biggest concern regarding facing the Steelers?

    Bengals1181: As always, Dick LeBeau and his scheme. Even when the Steelers don't have the talent, the scheme usually is good enough to stifle teams. I read the other day that no Bengals QB has thrown for 300yds on the Steelers since Jon Kitna in 2003. I don't see that changing this week, and I don't think it needs to. I expect the Bengals to try to bring a heavy running attack Sunday 1) because its currently the weakness of the Steelers D, but 2) because it keeps the triple B's (Ben, Bell, Brown) off the field. The Bengals are going to want to beat the Steelers at their own game on Sunday. Pound the rock, play strong defense and strong special teams.

    How do you expect this one to play out?

    Brian: Much like the Ravens game from earlier this year, I expect this to be a higher scoring game than most people expect. The Bengals should have little problem moving the ball on the ground, especially with Brett Keisel out for Pittsburgh, and I also don’t see how the Steelers can match up with AJ Green. However, while the Cincinnati defense has been outstanding in their last 3 games, they also haven’t been forcing TOs, and haven’t had to face weapons the caliber of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. They’ve had success in limiting Brown in the past, but especially without Burfict, I don’t see how they’ll be able to stop Bell. Of course I’m calling for a Steelers win, mainly because they have to. They’ve stuggled with their focus at times, but there’s no question that 100% of their focus is on this game. Let’s call it something like 27-20.

    Bengals1181: I'm not one for making actual score predictions, but I do think the Bengals pull this one out in a close one. Right now the Bengals special teams is playing at a very high level and I think they'll not make the mistake of letting Antonio Brown get off a good return like he has in the past. Further, I think the Bengals defense will do just enough. While they had a bad 4 or so game stretch, the Bengals D the last few weeks has been very good at stifling the run and not allowing big pass plays. I think they do that just well enough this week to keep the Steelers from scoring too much. Further, I look for the Bengals to be able to run the ball and shorten the game. The key comes down to avoiding turnovers, naturally.

    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      I am scared to death of a Bengal gameplan that involves 20 carries for Jeremy Hill and 15 for Gio Bernard. If that happens, I can pretty much guarantee at least 125-150 yards rushing, and 2 big plays in the passing game, likely both to AJ Green (although Sanu could easily join the party).

      This is a game where, if the Steelers win the toss, they should take the ball first in an effort to dictate the tempo from the start. They won't, because they never do, but they should. I don't think this is a game where they can fall behind early and survive.

      That said, Ben's hand was bothering him in the first half last week, which is the direct reason why his performance was so shaky. He may or may not have a broken bone in his wrist, but he played much better in the 2nd half of that game, and should be fine this week. Yes, Lev Bell is a huge key, as we both mentioned, but the Steelers need Ben at his best to win.

      This is one of those divisional games where literally any outcome is on the board.
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      Nice work, guys. I now feel appropriately prepped for the game, which, of course, I will neither see nor hear.

      This is one of those divisional games where literally any outcome is on the board.
      This may be the truest thing ever said about the Bengals/Steelers rivalry in general. You just never know what's going to happen with these two teams. Back in 1980, I remember Terry Bradshaw having to take over as the Steelers' punter because Colquitt (punting Colquitt #1) hurt his foot. Last year we had the assault on Kevin Huber's jaw. That's just odd stuff! However, it's par for the course with the Bengals and Steelers. There are many more storied rivalries in the league, but there aren't many that are just weirder, crazier and meaner than Bengals/Steelers.
    1. Amy's Avatar
      Does it really matters who wins?

      If #7 is hurt, the Steelers won't go anywhere in the playoffs, and we already all know Cincy chokes in the opening round. Go Browns!
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Amy View Post
      Does it really matters who wins?

      If #7 is hurt, the Steelers won't go anywhere in the playoffs, and we already all know Cincy chokes in the opening round. Go Browns!
      #7 is just fine.

      Looks like I undersold Bell a bit. Not AJ though. They can't cover him.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      This has been enjoyable.

      How's that for analysis?
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      I read the other day that no Bengals QB has thrown for 300yds on the Steelers since Jon Kitna in 2003.

      well, Dalton put up 303yds, but not the way you'd hope...
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      Bengals D has just fallen apart in the 4th quarter. 25 unanswered FOURTH QUARTER points by the steelers.