Matchup: Steelers at Bengals
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When the Bengals have the ball: The offense revolves around second-year QB Andy Dalton and his ability to get the ball to second-year WR A.J. Green, the first player in NFL history to have 100 catches, 1,500 receiving yards and 10 TDs in his first 20 games. Teams who have tried to stop the Bengals running game have paid a price. Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis has had the bulk of the carries since the season-ending injury to Bernard Scott. Green-Ellis has rushed for 362 yards. But the Bengals also have 100 runs of 3 yards or less and have just five of 15 yards or more (four more than the Steelers). But when Washington and Jacksonville lined to stop the run, the Bengals beat them over the top with Green. The Bengals had to sign C Jeff Faine when they lost Kyle Cook 10 days before the season opener. No. 1 pick Kevin Zeitler has started all six games at right guard.
When the Steelers have the ball: Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer should focus on taking away Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game. CB Leon Hall will be used to stop Mike Wallace. Veteran CB Nate Clements has been moved to safety. Former Cowboys CB Terrence Newman was signed in free agency. Like the Steelers, the Bengals don't create turnovers (7) and are tied for AFC-low with two INTs. Why take away the passing game? The running game has been mostly non-existent. Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) will not play, leaving Jonathan Dwyer as the main back. The Steelers are one of only two teams with no runs of 20 yards or longer. The Bengals have 20 sacks and like to generate pressure from the D-line. Pro Bowl T Geno Atkins leads all interior linemen with six and could be a huge factor, especially if C Maurkice Pouncey (knee) does not play. Pouncey practiced two days on a limited basis this week. Rookie Mike Adams will make his first start for injured Marcus Gilbert. He has struggled in protection and could need help with DE Carlos Dunlap. The Bengals are weakest at linebacker, but undrafted rookie Vontaze Burfict has been a surprise.
Keep an eye on
TE Jermaine Gresham ... He could be a matchup problem for the Steelers, especially without S Troy Polamalu (right calf), who will miss his second game in a row and fourth this season. Coach Mike Tomlin said Gresham (6-5, 260) is like "an enormous wide receiver" because he runs so well and is often split from the line. Gresham is tied for second on the team with 25 catches and two touchdowns, but he also had two big drops against the Browns.
The Steelers have won 10 of the past 11 meetings at Paul Brown Stadium and are 11-2 there since the stadium opened in 2000. But they are winless on the road this season (0-3) and have lost four road games in a row, dating to last season. The Steelers have not lost back-to-back games since Week 13 of the 2009 season, a span of 40 games. ... Roethlisberger is 14-2 in games played in his native Ohio -- 7-1 in Cleveland and 7-1 in Cincinnati. Overall, he is 13-4 vs. the Bengals. ... The Bengals have lost two in a row after a 3-1 start and have not had back-to-back winning seasons since Marvin Lewis became head coach. ... The Bengals have not lost three in a row since 2010.
To win, the Bengals must ...
1. Keep drives alive. The Bengals are last in the NFL in third-down conversions, converting just 20 of 75 chances, or 26.7 percent.
2. Be front and center. They generate their pressure from the defensive front, especially in the middle with Atkins.
3. Go under cover(age). The Titans had six passes of 18 yards or longer against the Steelers secondary, throwing over the LBs and under the deep coverage.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Not be Green with envy. The Bengals receiver needs more than one player to follow him because of his ability to make mid-air adjustments.
2. Gang on Dalton. Getting pressure with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley together again should help cure some of the defensive ails.
3. Not bleed a lead. In all three losses, they have blown leads while allowing opponents to combine for 40 points in the fourth quarter.
First Published October 21, 2012 12:00 am