In many respects, December has not been a month for receiving and good cheer for Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green.
After catching a touchdown pass in nine consecutive games, a single-season club record that began the second week of the regular season, Green has been limited to just one touchdown in the past four games.
And, after catching 14 passes of 20 yards or longer in the first 11 games, Green's longest catch in December is 17 yards. Of course, that's 9 yards longer than his longest catch in the first meeting against the Steelers.
And that was his only catch.
"I thought they did a good job," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a former Steelers assistant from Bill Cowher's original staff. "I think if you go back and read what I told you last time, I think Ike is one of the best corners in the National Football League."
The reference was to cornerback Ike Taylor, who followed Green in the first meeting in October at Paul Brown Stadium and held the Bengals' second-year receiver to just one catch for 8 yards -- although the reception was a touchdown.
It was the first of three games in which Taylor held the other team's top receiver to just one catch. (Baltimore's Torrey Smith and Cleveland's Greg Little were the others.) The total for the three catches was 21 yards.
Taylor, though, will miss his third game in a row with a hairline fracture of his right ankle. And that means cornerback Keenan Lewis, who shadowed Dez Bryant of Dallas a week ago, will be assigned the task of trying to minimize Green's play-making skills for the second time this season.
"He's another long cornerback," Green said of Lewis. "He has long arms. He is playing very well. I am going to have to be patient on my releases and keep his hands down."
Lewis probably has been the team's best cornerback all season. He leads the NFL with 26 passes defensed, 12 more than Taylor, and is fourth on the team with 70 tackles. Former Steelers cornerbacks Mel Blount and J.T. Thomas said Lewis is the most talented cornerback on the team.
"He's played well since he's been there and in the lineup," said Marvin Lewis, a McDonald native who in his 10th season as Bengals coach. "He's got length like Ike does. He's got good speed. He's got long arms. He opens and closes his hips well. He does well, and he's competitive at the football."
He will need to be that and more against Green, a No. 1 draft choice from 2011.
Green leads the Bengals with 85 catches, 1,208 yards and 11 touchdowns, and his ability to adjust his body in mid-air makes him a nightmare for defensive backs to cover.
Lewis injured his hip breaking up an end-zone pass in the fourth quarter in Dallas and never returned to the game. The hip is fine, but he hurt his right knee stepping into a hole on the practice field Wednesday.
"He's a good receiver, a big guy who can run routes like a smaller guy and adjusts to the ball pretty good," said Lewis, a third-round choice in 2009. "He's playing with a lot of confidence and that makes him good."