When the Bengals have the ball: They do not lean on RB Cedric Benson as much as they did a year ago even though they have led at halftime in four of seven games. QB Carson Palmer has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 1,855 yards and 12 touchdowns, but has been inconsistent, witness 10 consecutive missed third-down conversions against the Dolphins. Chad Ochocinco has 39 catches and 458 yards, but he has done little damage since a season-long 42-yard catch against the Browns Oct. 3. Rookie Jordan Shipley has emerged as a dependable slot receiver (24 catches, 349 yards) and rookie TE Jermaine Greshman already has proved to be a powerful blocker. Their best lineman, LT Andrew Whitworth, fared well against LB James Harrison in 2009, holding him without a sack in two games. RT Andre Smith, last year's No. 1 pick, has to guard against the bull rush of OLB Lamarr Woodley.
When the Steelers have the ball: One of the keys to the Bengals' success in 2009 was the pressure generated by their defense. That has disappeared. They have only six sacks and that has put a lot of pressure on their CBs Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph to stay with receivers. Hall leads the team with four INTs. Part of the reason for the lack of pressure is the absence of DE Antwaan Odom, who has two games remaining in a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy; and DE Jonathan Fanene, who is injured (hamstring). Fanene and DE Robert Geathers combined for 9 1/2 sacks in '09; they have none this season. Also, the Bengals are giving up an average of 120.7 yards rushing per game, 22 yards more than they did last season.
WR Terrell Owens ... Despite his age (36) and playing in his 15th NFL season, he leads the Bengals with 45 catches, 629 yards receiving and five TDs -- three of them for 37 yards or longer. Owens had 222 yards receiving against the Browns Oct. 3, the second-highest total by an NFL receiver this season, and has at least one touchdown catch in each of the past four games. He needs 52 catches to move into second place in NFL history behind Jerry Rice in career receptions.
The Steelers had won eight consecutive games at Paul Brown Stadium until their 23-20 defeat there a year ago. They have won five consecutive games on Monday night and 12 of their past 14 in prime time. ... The Bengals have lost four consecutive games by a total of 21 points and are 1-2 at home. They swept the season series vs. the Steelers in '09 and are looking to win three in a row against them for the first time since 1989-90. The Bengals are 9-18 all time on Monday nights, but 2-1 at home.
To win, the Bengals must ...
1. Have Palmer be patient. He was able to dink-and-dunk his way to two long scoring drives a year ago in a comeback victory at home.
2. Have Chad be baaaaad. Ochocinco has never had a 100-yard receiving game against a Dick LeBeau defense.
3. Find the formula. They have abandoned the three staples of last season -- run the ball, play defense, good special teams -- during their four-game losing streak.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Not hedge on Benson. They have not allowed a running back to gain more than 48 yards or have a run longer than 14 yards this season.
2. Run a go-go on JoJo. Joseph and Hall like to play aggressive at the line of scrimmage, leaving themselves vulnerable to a deep go route to Mike Wallace.
3. Keep T.O. from TDs. Owens has been their deep target, catching touchdowns of 78, 43 and 37 yards from Palmer.