Continuing their winning streak and moving into first place in the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers enter week fifteen poised to further their hold on the division. This week they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in their second matchup of the season.
While many thought the Steelers’ winning streak would end in Buffalo, they have not lost a game in over a month since their defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys in November. A win over the Bengals will give the Steelers another vital win in the division. If the Ravens lose to the Philadelphia Eagles, which is possible if Joe Flacco plays erratically as he has in weeks past, the Steelers can all but lock up the division with a win on Christmas night.
The Steelers get key members of the offense and defense back in this contest. Ramon Foster, Javon Hargrave, and DeAngelo Williams fully participated in practice this week. B.J. Finney filled in well for Foster last week, but Hargrave’s presence was a noticeable absence last week against Buffalo. If Todd Haley decides to lighten Le’Veon Bell‘s workload, he has the services of Williams at his disposal.
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For the Bengals, they will be without Pro-Bowl wide receiver, AJ Green, due to a grade 2 hamstring injury he suffered in late November. Ross Cockrell did a great job of covering Green in week two, limiting him to two receptions for thirty-eight yards. Even without Green’s services, Andy Dalton still has a threatening passing attack.
Ben Roethlisberger will look to avenge his zero touchdown, three interception performance from last week against a formidable Bengals’ defense. Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick will have the Steelers’ receivers locked up for much of the game, but if Ben can find Le’Veon Bell or Ladarius Green early in the game, he will have an easy time of marching the Steelers’ offense down the field.
Bud Dupree vs. Eric Winston
After missing much of his sophomore campaign due to surgery to repair his injured groin, Bud Dupree exploded onto the scene in his first official start of the season. Dupree recorded 2.5 sacks on Tyrod Taylor with his relentless pass rush. Jarvis Jones, who failed to record a single sack in eight starts this year, was reduced to one special teams’ snap.
Dupree’s return was the shot in the arm the Steelers’ defense needed, and he will attempt to replicate that ferocity against Bengal’s right tackle, Eric Winston. Winston is expected to make his third-straight start after replacing Cedric Ogbuehi, who has struggled in his first year replacing Andre Smith.
Winston, a long-time member of the Houston Texans’ offensive line, is a knowledgeable veteran, but Dupree could get the best of offensive lineman with his explosive burst off the line. If Dupree, or any of the Steelers’ defense, is able to get to Dalton early in the game, it will set the tone for the Steelers’ defense to have control of the game early on.
Le’Veon Bell vs. The Bengals’ Defense
This matchup will take the entirety of the Bengals’ defense to attempt to stifle Bell’s attempt at another strong performance. His near 300 yards from scrimmage against the Bills was one of the most impressive performances of the season. Cincinnati’s defense gave up 113 yards on ten carries to Isaiah Crowell last weekend in their game against the Cleveland Browns.
Geno Atkins will prove to be the biggest opposition on the Bengals’ defensive line for Bell. The Pro-Bowl defensive lineman knows a thing or two about stopping the run, and will attempt to clog up runs through the middle. Bell’s talents in the passing game and picking up blitzes will also serve the offense well in weather forecasts projected to be cloudy and below freezing.
Whether or not Bell is destined for another 200 yard game on the ground is difficult to say, but the Bengals’ defense is a better than the one faced last week.
If their defense becomes frustrated and winded early in the contest, it is only a matter of time before the Steelers’ workhorse begins to assault them for a dangerous number of yards. Bell is the X-Factor in the Steelers’ attempt to win five straight games.
Ben Roethlisberger bounces back from his ugly performance last week, throwing for 300 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals’ defense
Artie Burns records his fourth interception of the year, tying Scott Shields for most interceptions by a Steelers’ rookie.
Bud Dupree sacks Andy Dalton at least twice, moving his sack total for the year to 4.5
The Steelers pick up a vital division win, leaving Paul Brown Stadium with a 36-20 victory.