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Inside the Steelers: Bengals-Steelers Preview

The Cincinnati Bengals visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in the last game of the 2014 NFL regular season, as NBC flexed the match-up to it’s Sunday Night Football broadcast at 8:30 pm. The stakes are huge, as the winner will become the AFC North Champion. If Cincinnati wins, they can secure the #2 seed in the AFC Playoffs if Denver also loses. If both Cincinnati and Denver wins, the Bengals will be the #3 seed. If Pittsburgh wins, they will nail down the #3 seed. The loser of this game falls to the #5 seed.

A few weeks ago in the Queen City, the Steelers pounded the Bengals 42-21. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense will look to keep the pedal to the medal against a defense they previously torched. Big Ben ranks 2nd in the league with 4,635 yards passing, trailing only Drew Brees by 36 yards. He also has 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

His counterpart in Andy Dalton is 19th in the league with 3,154 yards passing, with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions–which is tied for 5th worst in the NFL alongside Peyton Manning.

Le’Veon Bell continues to be the most dynamic running back in the league, as he has 1,341 yards rushing, which is 2nd only to DeMarco Murray. He’s scored eight touchdowns on the ground. Through the air, Bell has nabbed 77 catches for 774 yards and three more scores. His 2,115 all-purpose yards is only 25 yards behind Murray’s 2,140.

Cincinnati employs a two-headed rushing attack with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Hill has 1,024 yards to Bernard’s 672 on the ground. Hill has also outscored Bernard nine to five. Through the air, Bernard has chipped in 36 catches for 293 yards and a score. Hill has 25 for 205, with no scores.

The league’s leading pass catcher is Antonio Brown, who has an astounding 122 catches so far. The closest to that mark is Denver’s Demaryius Thomas with 103. Brown also leads in receiving yards with 1,570 with 12 scores. Heath Miller is 3rd on the team with 63 grabs for 720 yards and three touchdowns. Markus Wheaton has 50 catches for 627 yards and two scores. Rookie Martavis Bryant has a line of 25-528 and seven touchdowns.

A.J. Green leads the Bengals with 61 catches for 959 yards and six scores. Mohamed Sanu is 2nd with 774 yards receiving via 55 catches. He has five touchdowns. Tight End Jermaine Gresham is also heavily involved, as he is 2nd on the team with 59 catches for 440 yards and four scores.

The young Steelers defense has stepped it up of late, but continues to be susceptible to the long ball. The Bengals burned the Steelers in the last game with a 81 yard strike to Green. On the D line, Cam Heyward has stepped up big time, as has rookie Stephon Tuitt. The Steelers are now ranked 6th best against the run. James Harrison had flashes of his MVP self last week as he chased down the Chief’s Alex Smith all game long. Lawrence Timmons continues to be one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL. Jason Worilds is up and down like a roller coaster. Jarvis Jones needs to step it up, as does rookie Ryan Shazier. Sean Spence, Vince Williams, and Arthur Moats have all been solid contributors all year long. In the secondary, William Gay has been solid. Brice McCain is improving. FS Mike Mitchell is getting better each week as he seems to finally be comfortable in Dick LeBeau’s scheme. Will Allen as been good in replacing the injured Troy Polamalu, who may be playing in his final game at Heinz Field if the Steelers lose.

 

Prediction: Historically, especially with Ben Roethlisberger under center, the Steelers have dominated the Bengals. Pittsburgh has been Cincinnati’s kryptonite. The Bengals have a huge opportunity to bury the past with a major victory at Heinz Field and secure the division. The Bengals looked pretty good last week in defeating Denver, and will come into the game with some confidence. However, that swagger may be short lived, as I expect the Steelers to take the bull by the horns in front of a raucous home crowd, and once again crush the Bengals hopes. Records will fall in this game. Steelers 31 Bengals 20

 

Team Rankings

Total Offense: Steelers rank 2nd / Bengals rank 15th

Rushing: Steelers rank 13th / Bengals rank 5th

Passing: Steelers rank 2nd / Bengals rank 22nd

Scoring: Steelers rank 7th / Bengals rank 15th

 

Total Defense: Steelers rank 20th / Bengals rank 22nd

Rushing: Steelers rank 6th / Bengals rank 23rd

Passing: Steelers rank 27th / Bengals rank 16th

Scoring: Steelers rank 19th / Bengals rank 10th

 

Game Information

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) vs Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1)

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Game-time: Sunday, December 28 at 8:30 PM

TV: NBC

Weather at Kickoff: 39 degrees and cloudy.

Vegas Line: Pittsburgh (-3.5)

 

Game Notes

* Steelers lead the overall series against the Bengals at 54-34. Steelers lead the series playing at home at 29-15.

* Last Regular-Season Meeting: Dec. 7, 2014 at Cincinnati- Pittsburgh 42  Cincinnati 21

* Ben Roethlisberger will set a franchise record for the most touchdown passes in a season with his third (32 in 2007). Needs 16 completions to become the first player in Steelers history to total 400 in a single-season.

* Le’Veon Bell will become the first Steelers running back to record 1,400 rushing yards in a season since 2006 (Willie Parker) with 59.

* Antonio Brown Needs two catches to tally the second-most in a season in NFL history with 124.

* James Harrison needs one multi-sack game to break a tie with Jason Gildon (17) for the most such games in Steelers history since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

 

Injury Report (12/26/2014)

Pittsburgh Steelers

Out:

Doubtful: 

Questionable: TE Michael Palmer (groin), S Troy Polamalu (knee), CB Ivan Taylor (shoulder, forearm)

Probable: T Kelvin Beachum (back), TE Matt Spaeth (elbow), LB Vince Williams (ankle)

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Out:

Doubtful:

Questionable: CB Adam Jones (illness), LB Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring), CB Chris Lewis-Harris (illness), S Reggie Nelson (illness), CB Terence Newman (illness), WR James Wright (knee)

Probable: G Clint Boling (illness), LB Chris Carter (knee), CB Darqueze Dennard (shin), DE Wallace Gilberry (hamstring), WR A.J. Green (biceps), K Mike Nugent (illness)

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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