Game 2 matchup: Steelers at Bengals


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When the Bengals have the ball: The Bengals have three new playmakers -- TE Tyler Eifert, RB Giovani Bernard and WR Mohamed Sanu -- to add to their young passing combo of QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. Eifert is their No. 1 draft choice who was the top-rated tight end in the draft, and he had five catches for 47 yards in his debut against the Bears. Bernard was a second-round choice who is backing up RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and playing on third downs. He is a change-of-pace back and good pass-catcher and, at 5 feet 9, 205 pounds, the Bengals hope he can be their version of Ray Rice. Sanu, a third-round choice in 2012, missed the final month of his rookie season with a broken foot. But at 6-2, 210 pounds, he gives Dalton another big option on the edge. Green, though, is the key. He had nine catches for 162 yards last week against the Bears, even though he was shadowed by Pro Bowl CB Charles Tillman. The Bengals will be without LT Andrew Whitworth, who will be replaced by Anthony Collins. Collins did a good job on Julius Peppers in Chicago.

When the Steelers have the ball: Mike Tomlin said there are a lot of critical matchups on defense, and none is bigger than trying to contain Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins, who blows up run plays and sacks the quarterback. That is not an easy task without Pro Bowl C Maurkice Pouncey, who sustained a season-ending knee injury against the Titans. He will be replaced by newcomer Fernando Velasco, who started 13 of his 16 games at center last season for the Titans. Velasco and Atkins were teammates at Georgia. The Bengals will generate their pressure with Atkins and defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, who accounted for 30 of their 50 sacks in 2012. The Bengals will use an eight-man rotation on their defensive line that includes former Penn State tackle Devon Still, their second-round pick in 2012. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict led the team in tackles last season as a rookie.

Keep an eye on

James Harrison: The former Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker and 2008 NFL defensive player of the year signed with the Bengals after refusing to agree to a pay cut with the Steelers. He has a different role with the Bengals -- playing as the outside linebacker who is stacked behind the tackle and end. He is not being relied upon to generate sacks. Harrison was credited with three tackles against the Bears, according to the coaches' film review, and rushed only five times.

Intangibles:

The Steelers have won four in a row and 11 of the past 12 meetings at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, including the playoffs, but are coming off a 16-9 loss last Sunday to the Tennessee Titans. In each of the past two seasons, the Steelers followed a season-opening defeat (Ravens in 2011, Broncos in 2012) with a victory in Week 2 (Seahawks in 2011, Jets in 2012). ... Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is 7-1 on Monday Night Football and has won the past two against the Bengals on MNF. .... The Bengals are coming off a 24-21 loss in Chicago, but have won three of their past four games at home. The Bengals are 9-20 all time on Monday Night Football.

To win, the Bengals must ...

1. Go Green. The Pro Bowl receiver had 10 catches for 115 yards in the previous meeting, but top Steelers CB Ike Taylor did not play because of injury.

2. Send men at Ben. The Bengals generate most of their pressure with their defensive line, but they did not have a sack last week in Chicago.

3. Keep up with the Joneses. Slot receiver Marvin Jones had five catches for 65 yards in the most recent meeting, at Heinz Field.

To win, the Steelers must ...

1. Gang up on Dalton. The Bengals QB has a lot of receiving options -- if he is given time to throw.

2. Go downtown with Brown. The offense needs more explosion plays from Antonio Brown, who has 12 catches and 193 yards in the past two games against the Bengals, including a 60-yard TD.

3. Tie up Eifert. The Bengals will try to create matchup problems in the middle of the field by using him in tandem with Pro Bowl TE Jermaine Gresham.

Steelers

First Published September 16, 2013 4:00 AM


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