NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Preview
Welcome to the NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Preview! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Preview, the Steeler’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Fantasy Football Impact, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, the latest Injury Report, down to the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. That, or grateful the other team does something mind-numbingly stupid, just as Brett Hundley and the Packers did late last week when they gave Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown just enough time to stun them with a last-second field goal to send the Steelers to their sixth straight victory.
One thing the Steelers and their defense knows is that the splash plays against them need to cease as soon as possible if they intend to go far into the playoffs.
“You can’t give up chunks on defense,” coach Mike Tomlin said late Sunday night, “and give yourself chances to win.”
Though the offense is warming up, the defense has been torched with three 50 yard plus scoring plays the past three games.
Since their meeting with Detroit on October 29th, the Steelers have allowed 11 completions of at least 33 yards and 13 plays of at least 25 yards.
“We’ve been having hiccups on defense in terms of giving up explosion plays,” said Tomlin at his weekly Tuesday press conference. “It’s putting us in position where we could lose games.
“It needs to disappear. Yesterday.”
Corner Artie Burns has been the target of many of these plays, which include missed tackles.
“We come in on Mondays and Tuesdays (during a regular week) knowing what a team is going to do to us in certain situations,” cornerback Artie Burns said. “In the past few games, we haven’t been making plays on those balls. We will get it right, though.”
Most of the breakdowns have been mental ones.
“It’s self-inflicted. It’s things that we can control,” defensive captain Cameron Heyward said. “I think we had a couple busted coverages (Sunday). We gave up a screen. On those screens, we have to be able to contain them so that we can run to the ball and have better success. If it’s a 10-yard play, it’s better than a 50-yard touchdown.”
Since Joe Haden went down, it seems these plays have popped up more often, but the team isn’t going to make excuses for his absence.
“The 11 guys on the field represent us. They’ve got a standard to uphold,” Tomlin said. “The standard is the standard.”
Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger and the offense continues to heat up. Though a huge match-up with New England looms in three weeks, the team’s focus is solely on defeating Cincinnati.
“That’s my biggest focus,” Roethlisberger said, “because these guys are going to come out to get us. They want to ruin our playoff chances.”
What I’m seeing and what we talk about is this week,” he said. “I think a lot of it is because it’s that big matchup that everyone wants to see coming down the road (against the Patriots). But for the players, we don’t think that way.
“We are thinking about right now. You can’t afford to think about anything else. You have to look at this (game). It’s AFC North football. That’s the biggest matchup you can have.”
The Steelers should have no trouble being focused on a team that has brewed some bad blood between the two AFC North rivals. The Bengals have been responsible for season-ending injuries to Le’Veon Bell twice and Antonio Brown once.
“It’s a rivalry,” Bell said Wednesday, five days before the Steelers play at Cincinnati. “That’s just the way the game is. You have two teams that really don’t like each other on the field, so there’s going to be little things that happen off the field, too. It comes with it.”
Players like Vontaze Burfict keep the fire hot, as he was fined for kicking fullback Roosevelt Nix in the helmet early in the game in the season’s first meeting. The Bengals have been well-known for their cheap shot tactics, especially when they play Pittsburgh.
“You have to go in and play the game and play it hard to the best of your ability with the understanding that you’ve got to be ready,” Roethlisberger said. “We’re not going to accuse anyone of being dirty, but we understand it’s a physical football game. It’s a physical team, and there are guys on that team that get after you and go to the whistle and maybe a little beyond.”
Steelers Keys To Victory
- Keep Attacking Deep! Force the Bengals to respect the pass. This will open up some running room for Le’Veon Bell.
- Release the Hounds! Utilize the no-huddle and spread the wealth to the various weapons the Steelers own.
- Line Up Le’Veon Bell Wide! Bell is a match-up nightmare in the passing game.
- Eliminate the Mental Mistakes! The opposition has torched The Steelers secondary over and over and over the past three weeks with miscommunication. That HAS to end now.
- Beware of Joe Mixon out of the Backfield! Mixon has become a dual threat. Don’t sleep on him if he stays in to block. He’ll release and catch passes now.
The quick strike plays need to be addressed immediately, especially with the likes of A.J. Green roaming the field on Monday night. Pittsburgh won the first game 29-14 back in Pittsburgh. The Steelers always find ways to torture the Bengals franchise, especially in Cincinnati, where the Steelers own a 29-17 record against the Bengals on their own turf.
A loss won’t necessarily kill the Bengal’s playoff hopes, but it will likely mean Cincinnati would have to win out to have any chance of slipping in.
I love that the Steeler offense is starting to live up to its potential, even though they haven’t had their full complement of weapons available since they began turning field goals into touchdowns.
If the defense gets back to eliminating the splash plays, this team will be very difficult to defeat, especially if they’re scoring 30 plus points a game.
The New England game is looming, of that, there is no doubt. Both teams know it’s on the schedule and what consequences that game will hold for home-field advantage. The Patriots are a thorn in the Steeler’s collective asses in the Brady Era, and the Steelers want nothing more than to avenge those past defeats.
But, first things first. Luckily, the next two game are against their hated rivals in Cincinnati and Baltimore. That will keep their focus in hand during these next two weeks.
The Bengal defense isn’t playing as well as they were during the first month of the season. If the Steelers are able to establish a strong running game behind the services of Le’Veon Bell, that will open up some room in the passing game for Antonio Brown and the rest of the Steeler receivers to shine.
Does Ben Roethlisberger think the offense has found its flow?
“I hope so,” Roethlisberger said after practice Wednesday. “I think we’ve been able to score points. We’ve been successful in the red zone and on third downs. Part of that could be playing at home, being able to communicate easier, the comforts of home, things like that. Maybe we’re just starting to click. We’ll see this week. This is a very good defense. They’ve never given up 30 points. They know us very well so this is a big test for us.”
Steelers 34 Bengals 20
NFL Week 13
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
Venue: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH.
Game-time: Monday, December 4th, 8:30 pm
TV: ESPN | Announcers: Sean McDonough (play-by-play) Jon Gruden (analyst) | Lisa Salters (sideline)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)
National Radio: Westwood One | Announcers: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) Boomer Esiason (analyst) | Steve Tasker (sideline)
Weather at Kickoff: 45 and cloudy.
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh -5.5
- Series History: Series began in 1970.
- The Steelers are 59-35 in the overall Regular Season series against the Bengals.
- Steelers are 27-19 playing on the road vs the Bengals.
- Streak: Steelers won previous four meetings.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 22, 2017, in Pittsburgh- Pittsburgh 29 Cincinnati 14
- Steelers are 2-0 in the Post-Season vs the Bengals.
- Last Post-Season Meeting: Jan. 9, 2016 – Cincinnati, Ohio – Pittsburgh 18 Cincinnati 16 (AFC Wild Card)
- Bengals HC Marvin Lewis served as the Steelers’ LB coach for four seasons (1992-95).
- The Steelers aim to improve to 45-24 on Monday Night Football (20-19 on the road).
- The Steelers look to extend their current win streak to seven with a win on Monday night.
- Ben Roethlisberger is 238 passing yards from reaching 50,000 in his NFL career and becoming the eighth quarterback in NFL history to reach the milestone.
- Antonio Brown will surpass Marvin Harrison (563) for the most receptions in any five-year span in NFL history with 83 in 2017.
- Brown, with 100 catches in 2017, will become the first player in NFL history to record 100 or more receptions in five consecutive years.
- Le’Veon Bell is 19 rushing yards shy from recording his second straight 1,000-yard season and the third of his NFL career.
- James Harrison is 2.5 sacks from 85 in his career with the Steelers.
- Chris Boswell is five field goals shy of setting a new single-season career high (29 in 2015).
- Cam Heyward will extend his single-season career-high in sacks with his next quarterback takedown (9.0 in 2017).
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
Overall Record: 9-2
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (11th Season with Steelers)
Overall Regular Season Record: 112-59 (.655)
Playoff Record: 8-6 (Qualified for playoffs 7 times)
Last Game: Steelers 31 Packers 28
Scouting the Steelers
Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger leads a vastly underperforming offense that has the ability to beat you via the ground or the air. Big Ben has normally been outstanding at home but has struggled to put up the same numbers on the road the past few seasons.
Running Backs – Le’Veon Bell is considered to be one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, if not the best. Bell can kill you on the ground with his speed and elusiveness. He is patient, often delaying a second to find the hole to burst through. Bell is also dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher. James Conner will spell Bell from time to time.
Wide Receivers – Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the game. You can count on five catches for at least 50 yards every week at a minimum. This wideout group is extremely deep and talented. Martavis Bryant is a deep threat on every play with his size and speed. Eli Rogers is excellent from the slot. Justin Hunter has superior speed and is also a deep threat. Rookie Juju Smith-Schuster is looking to make his mark in the NFL in his first season and is already becoming a reliable Roethlisberger target. Darrius Heyward-Bey is mainly used on special teams but is a dependable player when called upon in the passing game.
Tight Ends – Jesse James is the starter and becoming one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets around the end zone. Vance McDonald is a big target that can make splash plays for Roethlisberger across the middle and inside the red zone. Xavier Grimble is also a nice option for Ben inside the 10-yard line.
Defense – The Steeler defense is primed for an awakening in 2017. On the 3-4 defensive line, it’s Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. Daniel McCullers will rotate with Hargrave. Should Tuitt or Heyward go down, Tyson Alualu or L.T. Walton would step in.
At linebacker, rookie TJ Watt starts at OLB, with Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams in the middle. Bud Dupree stands opposite of Watt. Both can get at the quarterback and disrupt the opposing team’s passing game. Shazier is a stud in the middle and his speed makes him a nightmare for any QB who makes a mistake across the middle. Don’t count out James Harrison, who will rotate in to spell Watt or Dupree. Anthony Chickillo will also step in for injuries to Watt or Dupree on the outside and is making a name for himself every time he steps on the field.
The secondary has been revamped with the addition of Joe Haden at corner. He won’t have to guard the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver on every down, as that job falls to Artie Burns. Cody Sensabaugh is the backup corner. Mike Mitchell lines up at free safety, with JJ Wilcox or Robert Golden backing him up if injured. Sean Davis is getting better by the game at strong safety. Mike Hilton and Will Gay will be in at slot corner positions when called upon.
Ben Roethlisberger (2,948 yards passing | 20 TD passes | 12 interceptions | 15 sacks | 83 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
Le’Veon Bell (981 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s | 61 receptions | 396 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
James Conner (113 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Antonio Brown (80 receptions | 1,195 receiving yards | 8 receiving TD’s)
Juju Smith-Schuster (33 receptions | 568 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
Martavis Bryant (27 receptions | 346 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
Eli Rogers (11 receptions | 87 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Justin Hunter (3 receptions | 18 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Darrius Heyward-Bey (1 receptions | 44 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Jesse James (28 receptions | 246 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
Vance McDonald (5 receptions | 79 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
Xavier Grimble (2 receptions | 13 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 21-23 | FG: 25-28 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 9-9 | 30-39: 7-9 | 40-49: 7-8 | 50+: 2-2 | Long: 53)
A look at the Cincinnati Bengals!
Overall Record: 5-6
Head Coach: Marvin Lewis (12th Season with Bengals)
Overall Regular Season Record: 123-109-3 (.530) |
Playoff Record: 0-7 (Qualified for playoffs 7 times)
Last Week: Bengals 30 Browns 16
Scouting the Bengals
Quarterback – Andy Dalton has bounced back from early season struggles and has played well of late.
Running Backs – Joe Mixon is the starter and is getting better as the season progresses. Giovani Bernard getting looks out of the backfield on 3rd down situations.
Wide Receivers – A.J. Green remains one of the best receivers in football. Brandon LaFell has stepped up his production since the first time these two teams met. Tyler Boyd and Alex Erickson have just 19 catches combined between them.
Tight Ends – Tyler Kroft has stepped up nicely in Tyler Eifert’s absence. He has nabbed 31 reception for 317 receiving yards and five TDs.
Defense – The Bengals aren’t as stingy a unit as they were early in the season. They defend the pass fairly well but can be gashed on the ground.
Andy Dalton (2,372 yards passing | 18 TD passes | 8 interceptions | 28 sacks | 83 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
Joe Mixon (484 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 26 receptions | 258 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Giovani Bernard (121 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 19 receptions | 219 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
A.J. Green (53 receptions | 809 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
Brandon LaFell (37 receptions | 373 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
Alex Erickson (10 receptions | 160 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Tyler Boyd (9 receptions | 65 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Tyler Kroft (31 receptions | 317 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
Randy Bullock (Extra Point: 21-23 | FG: 11-14 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 4-4 | 30-39: 4-5 | 40-49: 3-4 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: 49)
Fantasy Football Impact
Start: QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, RB Le’Veon Bell, Steelers D
Sleeper: WR Martavis Bryant, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Brown and Bell are always going to be in your starting line-up if you are lucky enough to have them. Roethlisberger is money in Prime Time games. The Steeler Defense always terrorizes Andy Dalton and the Bengals. With the Steeler offense heating up, both Bryant and Schuster-Smith could yield results for your line-up.
Start: WR A.J. Green
Sit: QB Andy Dalton
Sleeper: RB Joe Mixon, TE Tyler Kroft
Unless you’re insane, Green is always a weekly starter. Both Mixon and Kroft should get decent numbers, but not anything earth-shattering.
Steelers – Bengals: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison
Steelers Offense: Steelers average 376.1 | Bengals allow 330.5 YPG
Rushing: Steelers average 104.1 YPG | Bengals allow 126.6 YPG
Passing: Steelers average 272 YPG | Bengals allow 203.8 YPG
Scoring: Steelers average 23.5 PPG | Bengals allow 19.5 PPG
Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 289.4 YPG | Bengals average 291.3 YPG
Rushing: Steelers allow 96 YPG | Bengals average 75.6 YPG
Passing: Steelers allow 193.4 YPG | Bengals average 215.6 YPG
Scoring: Steelers allow 17.5 PPG | Bengals average 18.1 PPG
Injury Report (12/2/2017)
Out: CB Joe Haden (Fibula), TE Vance McDonald (Ankle)
Doubtful: S Mike Mitchell (Ankle)
Questionable: WR Antonio Brown (Toe)
Out: LB Vincent Rey (Hamstring), LB Nick Vigil (Ankle), S Shawn Williams (Hamstring)
Questionable: DE Michael Johnson (Back)
Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Schedule
Friday, Aug. 11 @ New York Giants W, 20-12 (KDKA)
Sunday, Aug. 20 ATLANTA W, 17-13 (KDKA)
Saturday, Aug. 26 INDIANAPOLIS L, 19-15 (KDKA)
Thursday, Aug. 31 @ Carolina W, 17-14 (KDKA)
REGULAR SEASON (9-2)
Sunday, Sept. 10 @ Cleveland 1 p.m. (CBS), W – 21-18
Sunday, Sept. 17 MINNESOTA 1 p.m. (FOX), W – 26-9
Sunday, Sept. 24 @ Chicago 1 p.m. (CBS), L – 17-23
Sunday, Oct. 1 @ Baltimore 1 p.m. (CBS), W – 26-9
Sunday, Oct. 8 JACKSONVILLE 1 p.m. (CBS), L – 9-30
Sunday, Oct. 15 @ Kansas City 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W – 19-13
Sunday, Oct. 22 CINCINNATI 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W – 29-14
Sunday, Oct. 29 @ Detroit* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W – 20-15
Sunday, Nov. 5 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 12 @ Indianapolis* 1 p.m. (CBS), W – 20-17
Thursday, Nov. 16 TENNESSEE 8:25 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon), W – 40-17
Sunday, Nov. 26 GREEN BAY* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W – 31-28
Monday, Dec. 4 @ Cincinnati 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, Dec. 10 BALTIMORE* 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Dec. 17 NEW ENGLAND* 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Monday, Dec. 25 @ Houston 4:30 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon)
Sunday, Dec. 31 CLEVELAND* 1 p.m. (CBS)
* – Times may change due to ﬂexible scheduling
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 6-7 Wild Card Weekend
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 13-14 Divisional Playoﬀ Games
Sunday, Jan. 21 Conference Championships
Sunday, Jan. 28 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 4 Super Bowl LII (Minneapolis, Minn.)