Steelers: The Second Bengals Meeting


Nov 1, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis (L) and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin greet each other after their game at Heinz Field. The Bengals won 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday December 13, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals will clash for the second time this season.

In the first meeting between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers this season, the game took place at Heinz Field where Cincinnati prevailed 16-10. The Steelers had a 10-6 lead heading into the final quarter only to allow a short touchdown pass to A.J. Green followed by a 44-yard field goal off the foot of Mike Nugent.

In that game, Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions in his first game back after recovering from a knee injury suffered in the St. Louis Rams game.

For the Bengals, Andy Dalton did not fair any better. With two interceptions of his own, Dalton was also sacked three times equaling the number of instances Roethlisberger went down behind the line of scrimmage.

Pittsburgh was 4-3 heading into the game while the Bengals had not yet lost a game winning their first six. Going into this weekend, Cincinnati has now lost twice and won 10. Pittsburgh is 7-5 and close to being mathematically eliminated from defending their division title.

There is no question that Cincinnati is making the post-season but the Steelers can not make that claim. This game and every game for the remainder of the season is a MUST win, and they also need to be doing scoreboard watching to see how the other teams vying for a wild card are finishing their games. The focus for Pittsburgh needs to be taking care of their own matters, but there is no getting around the fact they will need help to get to the playoffs as well.

One focal point of this game will be how Cincinnati’s secondary that has some beat up players will do against the NFL’s second most prolific offense. Leon Hall, George Iloka, Adam Jones, and Dre Kirkpatrick are all list as questionable as of Friday. The Steelers trail only the Arizona Cardinals in yards-per-game with the Black and Gold averaging 409.1 and Arizona on top with a 417.5 mark.

When the Steelers have the ball: The Cincinnati Bengals are yielding 240 yards of passing per game on defense, however, that is with a healthy defense. Pittsburgh will look to take advantage of the limping secondary of the Bengals and use what works for them the best…passing the ball. Watch for an all out assault through the air but with a mix of some running plays as well.

The Steelers used to be a run first, pass second team, but these days with weapons like Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, Heath Miller, and a rising Jesse James, the air game takes priority.

Make no mistake, the Steelers can still run the ball effectively, even without Le’Veon Bell. Ranked sixth in the league in rushing, Pittsburgh is producing a nice 123 yards-per-game.

In the air, the Pittsburgh Steelers rank fifth overall, with the most plays over 40 yards among the 31 other teams. 19 times Pittsburgh has had a completion of 40 yards or more which is far and above the second best team in that category, Arizona who has 13.

Leading the way of course is Brown who by Sunday night might be at the top of the NFL in receiving yards as he trails Atlanta’s Julio Jones by just 28 yards (1,338 to 1,310).

Bryant’s 20.1 yards-per-reception is tops among the league’s regular wide receivers as he enters this game with 623 yards receiving. Wheaton is not among the top 50 receivers in yards, but lately he has been on a tear.

Given the fact that Ben Roethlisberger has missed five starts this season,  Brown’s numbers would probably be much more inflated had Big Ben been in on every play.

For the Cincinnati defense, the challenge will be to stop Pittsburgh’s high powered attack and hope their offense can do damage to Pittsburgh’s defense.

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When the Bengals have the ball: Cincinnati is ninth in rushing in the NFL and 12th in passing. Teams know they can move the ball in the air on the Steelers and will give up big chunks of yardage on the ground from time to time.

Expect Andy Dalton to throw to Tyler Eifert underneath often. Giovani Bernard will get the bulk of the rushing attempts as the Bengals’ leading ground gainer with 607 yards on the season.

A.J. Green is always dangerous and has done well facing the Steelers. How Dalton performs will not have much impact in the minds of his fan base. Their bigger concern will be if he can finally get over the hump and move his team past the first round for the first time in his career.

In regards to Pittsburgh’s defense, it’s another week and another question mark surrounding the secondary and whether or not they can contain a good quarterback and his receivers.

Intangibles: The bottom line is that Cincinnati can afford a loss but the Steelers badly need a win. If Mike Tomlin handles it the right way, he’ll have his team preparing for this game as though it was a playoff game. Expect Pittsburgh to bring their “A” game.

Prediction: Most times when Pittsburgh HAS to win, they win. Given Cincinnati’s injuries and Pittsburgh’s incentive, I like them on the road. Steelers 34 Bengals 24.