Game Day Matchups

Neal Coolong breaks down the top matchups in today's Bengals-Steelers game.

C Maurkice Pouncey vs. DT Geno Atkins

Pouncey's illness affected him much of the week, but he's expected to play. He'll have a difficult assignment when tasked to stop stud Bengals interior pass rusher Atkins. He leads all interior linemen with 6.5 sacks this year, and one of those came against Pittsburgh in Week 10.

The Bengals use Atkins all over the defensive line, moving him outside in some versions of their nickel package. Pouncey's conditioning could be a factor in the game due to the overall intensity of the Bengals' pass rush. Atkins is the leader of it, but both Gs Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky will have to help Pouncey to his left and right, respectively.

FS Ryan Clark vs. WR A.J. Green

When the Steelers play zone, Clark must remain disciplined in his reads to avoid the athletic Green from catching him flat-footed and not in position to make a play on deep passes. No doubt, that is something the Bengals will be looking to do, particularly to Clark's side of any two-deep safety defense the Steelers employ.

The catch Green made between Clark and SS Troy Polamalu in Week 10 will be on highlight reels for the entirety of Green's career, and it was little more than a jump ball to the 6-foot-4 receiver. All credit to Green, but as the ball hung in the air Clark lost his positioning and with it lost the ball. A more disciplined approach will help take that play out of Cincinnati's arsenal.

WRs Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown vs. CBs Adam Jones and Kelly Jennings

Bengals starting CB Nate Clements missed practice Friday with a hamstring injury, and while coach Marvin Lewis said he may still play, it's not often a player misses Friday's practice and factors into Sunday's game. If Clements can't go, the Bengals dig deeper into their depth chart for personnel to stop one of the most explosive passing offenses in the AFC.

Brown has gotten the bulk of the looks the last few weeks, and it didn't appear QB Ben Roethlisberger looked for either Brown or Wallace deep very often last week (except for his interception). With another week of healing for his re-fractured thumb, and playing in the friendly confines of Heinz Field (Roethlisberger has a passer rating of 102.1 there this season), look for Wallace and/or Brown to attack deep and outside the numbers this week.

LOLB LaMarr Woodley vs. RT Andre Smith

The Steelers will have Woodley and ROLB James Harrison back playing together for the first time since the first half of Week 4. Woodley, October's AFC Defensive Player of the Month, has at least 1.5 sacks in his past four games, including two in Week 8, before he was injured. It remains to be seen if his explosiveness off the edge will still be there, but Woodley did beat Smith for two sacks and a forced fumble in Pittsburgh's Week 9 win over the Bengals last season.

In Week 10 of this season, Smith played well against Woodley's replacement, Jason Worilds. It was one of the best games he's played in an up-and-down season. Last week against Cleveland, DE Jabaal Sheard was having his way with Smith, but the tackle shut him down in the fourth quarter, helping the Bengals win their fifth comeback victory of the season.


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