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The Steelers' Offense Is Red-Hot. The Bengals' Secondary Is Banged Up

It takes an army to cover a talented receiver corps like Pittsburgh's. Unfortunately for the Bengals on Sunday, they offer walking wounded as resistance.

The Steelers' offense is on a roll the last month, putting up historic numbers. They will attempt to keep their good times rolling under the direction of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when taking the field Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium for a much-anticipated 1 p.m. rematch against the Bengals, who won 16-10 earlier this year.

The Pittsburgh offense, missing injured starting tailback and all-around talent Le'Veon Bell, has managed to stay in peak form without its bell-cow back. According to NFL Research, the Steelers' 2,116 yards are the second-most in a four-game span in league history behind only the 1982 San Diego Chargers' "Air Coryell" offense.

Roethlisberger leads league quarterbacks in points per drive (2.66), yards per attempt (8.9) and completions of 40-plus yards (15), despite missing four games to injury. His top target, Antonio Brown, leads all NFL receivers over the last three years with 332 receptions and 4,506 yards. He's at 93 catches for 1,310 yards (14.1 average) and seven touchdowns this season.

Playmaker Martavis Bryant, a 6-foot-4 receiver with 4.3 speed, keeps defenses honest with a knack for long receptions and scoring touchdowns. He's done more with 31 catches than any man has a right to: 623 yards and six TDs. His 20.1 average ranks second in the league.

Receiver Markus Wheaton ranks fifth with 18.7 yards per catch. He has 28 receptions for 524 yards and three TDs. Wheaton has 12 grabs for 251 yards and two scores the past two weeks.

Whomever plays tight end for the Steelers, and it really doesn't matter who, whether it's Heath Miller or anybody else, has a good chance of scoring against the Bengals, recent history says.

Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams has to rank among the top pick-ups of the year in the wake of the unexpected long-term absence of Bell. In what has amounted to limited duty, he ranks 13th in the league in rushing with 697 yards on a robust 4.9 yards per carry, with six touchdowns. He also has 25 catches for 256 yards (10.2), good for a first down on average every time he hauls in a pass.

It takes an army to cover a receiver corps like that. Unfortunately for Sunday's opponent, the Bengals, they offer walking wounded as resistance.

Slot cornerback Leon Hall (back) returned to practice Thursday for the first time this week, with limited status, after missing the Browns contest. He's thought to be questionable for Sunday.

Starting cornerback Adam Jones (foot) remains out. Backup slot corner Darqueze Dennard is out for the season. He was the first casualty in what is now a decimated secondary after a team-wide spate of good health the first half of the season.

Starting safety George Iloka (groin) did not practice Thursday for the second day in a row, and appears likely to miss his second consecutive game.

There's some good news in the secondary, however. Starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) was full-go Thursday after being limited on Wednesday, and looks like a starter on Sunday.


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