Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Players to Watch


After yet another head scratching performance against the New Orleans Saints, the Pittsburgh Steelers are now 7-5 and tied for the sixth seed in the AFC Wild Card race with four games remaining.  For the first time this season the Steelers will be taking on the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium.  If the Steelers have any plans of staying in the AFC North title hunt they will need to beat the Bengals or else they will be virtually eliminated from that race at 2.5 games behind with three games to play.  Here are a few players to watch for on Sunday.

A.J. Green

The Bengals passing game has not been great this year, ranking 24th in yards per game.  Andy Dalton has thrown 13 touchdowns this year but he has also thrown 13 interceptions.  This season A.J. Green missed three games due to injury.  In those games the Bengals went 1-1-1 and Dalton had 2 TD’s to 3 picks.  The Bengals also got shutout in that stretch against the Colts with Dalton completing 47% of his passes.  With Green in the lineup this season the Bengals are 7-2, with Green receiving five of Dalton’s 13 touchdown throws.  A.J. Green has had an interesting career playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  In his first six game against the Steelers the Bengals are 2-4 but in games where Green has scored a touchdown against the Steelers, the Bengals are surprisingly 0-3.  Green also has not been great at home against the Steelers.  In three home games Green has a total of 8 catches for 85 yards with two touchdowns.  Last year the Bengals beat the Steelers in Cincy, with Green not catching a touchdown pass.  At Heinz Field, Green has been much more dangerous catching 25 passes for 296 yards and one TD.  With Ike Taylor looking very shaky last Sunday against the Saints it will be interesting to see how Green does.  He has yet to have a monster game in Cincy versus the Steelers but if he ends out scoring a touchdown that could somehow be a good thing for the road team.

Steelers Defensive Line

With the loss of Brett Keisel for the season and Steve McLendon still nursing a shoulder injury the Bengals running game could be the difference in the first matchup of the season.  While it would be nice to see Dalton try to throw the ball over 35 times, it is entirely possible the Bengals attempt to run all over the Steelers similar to how the Saints did last Sunday.  Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas ran for a total of 143 yards with a 5.5 yard per carry average.  The Bengals have the ninth best rushing offense with their own dangerous pair of running backs.  Giovanni Bernard has 540 yards despite missing three games, while rookie Jeremy Hill has 683 yards and six touchdowns.  In games when Hill gets 10 or more carries the Bengals are 6-1.  Last week the Bengals running backs combined for 89 rushing yards, and while they beat the Buccaneers they only scored 14 points but two weeks ago Bernard and Hill combined for 132 yards and a touchdown in a 22-13 win over the Texans.  If the Steelers want to stop the Bengals offense the running game will be very important.  If they can hold the two running backs to under 100 yards they will have a decent chance to get a win, but if the d-line is giving up gaping holes like they did against the Saints it could be another long afternoon.

Le’Veon Bell

The Bengals running defense has been up and down this year, ranking 25th and allowing 125 yards per game on the ground.  However in the Bengals past seven games, in which they have won five games, they have not allowed a 100 yard rusher.  The last 100-yard runner was Cam Newton in week six.  In the Bengals past three games they have not allowed a team to rush for higher than 3.4 yards per carry.  During the Bengals stretch when they went 0-2-1 they allowed 4.8 yards per carry to the Patriots, 4.3 against the Panthers, and 5.0 versus the Colts.  Therefore, if Le’Veon Bell can find running room and the Steelers stick to him, it could be a way to a victory.  Over the past two games Bell has run for 299 yards for an average of 5.5 yards per carry.  Sure that was against the Titans and Saints but if the offensive line and Bell continue to run the ball well against a Bengals defense that is good against the pass it will could be the determining factor.

Who else should we keep an eye on Steelers Nation?