Gerry Dulac breaks down the season finale

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Game plan

What the Steelers will do: They pushed the Bengals all over Heinz Field in the first meeting and would have had nearly 500 yards offense if it weren't for fourth-quarter fumbles by Ricardo Colclough and Verron Haynes. The offensive line should provide better protection for Ben Roethlisberger than it did against the Ravens, though expect Bengals coach Marvin Lewis to borrow some of the defensive tactics employed by his former team. Defensively, they will try to contain RB Rudi Johnson, who had 129 yards rushing against the Broncos, and make sure Carson Palmer does not hurt them with deep throws.

What the Bengals will do: One game they're blowing a 21-point second-half lead, the next they're all but shutting out Cleveland and Baltimore. QB Carson Palmer does a good job distributing the ball to his wide receivers. But Chad Johnson has been a late-season disappointment, dropping five passes in the past two games and losing a key fumble vs. the Broncos. The return of LT Levi Jones has helped the pass protection. The Bengals lost their best LBs early -- David Pollack (injury) and Odell Thurman (suspension) -- but their run defense has been solid.

Keep an eye on ...

The flea-flicker: Remember the flea-flicker play in last year's wild-card playoff game in which Antwaan Randle El took a reverse handoff, threw back to Ben Roethelisberger, who threw a 43-yard TD pass to Cedrick Wilson? Well, the Broncos pulled the same play on the Bengals last week, resulting in a 36-yard completion from Jay Cutler (who took a throwback pass from Rod Smith) to rookie Brandon Marshall to the Bengals 1 that set up a touchdown. For old times sake, and with nothing to lose, don't be surprised to see it again.


Game: Steelers (7-8) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-7).
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati.
Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970).


The Bengals have won the past two regular-season meetings, but they don't want their season to end the same way it did last year -- with a loss at home to the Steelers. Also, they need to be able to forget last week's botched opportunity in Denver, which left them with little, if any, playoff hope. That, though, is more than the Steelers have.

Keys to victory

To win, the Bengals must ...

1. Make a Roethlis-burger sandwich. The Ravens have made him antsy in the pocket. He is starting to feel pressure even when it isn't there.

2. Turn over a new leaf. The Bengals have committed five turnovers in the past two games, including key mistakes by their star players.

3. Snap out of it. They can't dwell on Denver, when their playoff hopes all but went slipping away like Brad St. Louis' extra-point snap.

To win, the Steelers must ...

1. Hush Houshmandzadeh. He is the WR who hurts them, not Chad Johnson, catching 21 passes for 257 yards and four TDs in past three meetings.

2. Give Rudi the boot-y. They have never allowed Johnson to gain more than 65 yards rushing at home.

3. Get the jump on Geathers. RT Willie Colon has to control Bengals DE Robert Geathers, who leads the team with 10.5 sacks.

and had two in the first meeting with the Steelers.


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