Preview of the second meeting between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals

SCI publisher Jim Wexell with everything anyone would need to know about today's Steelers at Bengals rematch.


Steelers 27, Bengals 13

Oct. 23, 2005: Paul Brown Stadium

Holding a three-game lead with four remaining, the Cincinnati Bengals are on their way to their 10th AFC North/Central Division title. In the nine previous championship seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers won only once at Cincinnati, and it occurred on their way to a title. The Steelers did it in 2005 with Ben Roethlisberger passing for only 93 yards. It remains the only game he's finished -- among his 180 career starts (postseason included) -- in which he's passed for under 100 yards. Willie Parker and the defense led the way here. Parker rushed for 131 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown run to break the game open in the third quarter. The play was set up by an Aaron Smith interception of a Kimo von Oelhoffen deflection. The game was also marked by cornerback Ike Taylor's first assignment to follow Bengals deep threat Chad Johnson in man coverage. Taylor held Johnson to four receptions for 94 yards. A 47-yarder with 2:25 remaining was caught with the Steelers leading 27-6.


"The Bengals do a lot of shifting. They give probably some of the most complex unbalanced offensive looks that I've ever seen. They'll even run some clump plays -- three guys clumped out to one side, three in the middle (a center and two guards) and three out to the right side. So it's going to be really important that the Steelers are all on the same page. Last time the Steelers did a great job of pushing the pocket. They usually brought six guys up in obvious pass situations, and usually dropped one and brought five. And it looked like the Bengals had a lot of trouble picking up the guys they needed to pick up. So one of the things you saw was the pocket consistently collapsing and you saw Andy Dalton scrambling, running more, uncomfortable in the pocket. Those are the main things: identify, call out and stop the run, and pressure the quarterback. I think this is going to be a great day for the Steelers." -- Steelers broadcast analyst Tunch Ilkin.


Will the Steelers try to get revenge?

The last time they played, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict grabbed Le'Veon Bell by the shoulder pads, threw his body onto the back of Bell's leg, tore his right MCL and ended his season. The previous time they played, free safety Reggie Nelson ended Bell's season with a shot to his right knee. Some thought both hits were cheap; others thought neither was cheap. The Steelers have some pretty feisty players themselves at those same positions in Vince Williams and Mike Mitchell. They may be completely focused on playing smart football, but if either of those bad boys gets a chance, watch out.

THREE QUESTIONS (and a clarification): With OLB James Harrison

Q: After the Colts game you were asked about your feeling after turning the edge and seeing the ball at the end of a QB's outstretched arm. You said it was like seeing a Christmas train light on. That didn't make sense.

JH: "I said it's like that hot light on Krispe Kreme when it comes on. Kris-py Kreme."

Q: Oh, OK. On something else, can you come up with a favorite goal-line stand this season?

JH: "I'm not going to lie. I really can't. I'm focused on what we need to do to get through this week and come out with a win."

Q: Are you aware you guys have allowed only four rushing touchdowns this season?

JH: "No. I don't have time to look at stats, man. We've got to get wins."

Q: Are you aware of how effective you guys have been rushing the quarterback?

JH: "We need to get more."


What to look for from the Steelers (7-5) today at Cincinnati (10-2):


Expect the Bengals, with their injury-plagued secondary, to play their deep zone coverage to guard against the Steelers' deep threats. Look for short passes to Antonio Brown, Heath MillerMarkus Wheaton and DeAngelo Williams, and probably their run-game packages with fullback Roosevelt Nix and backup tight ends Matt SpaethWill Johnson and Jesse James.


Stephon Tuitt didn't play in the previous meeting, so he'll add to the interior pressure they hope to put on Bengals quarterback Dalton. The Bengals may answer with more running against the Steelers' nickel defense and slot corner Brandon Boykin, but perhaps the Steelers will counter with Vince Williams in the same package. He's probably the Steelers' best run-stuffing linebacker and he played well coming off the bench to spell Ryan Shazier last week.


Players swear that homefield advantage in the playoffs is worthy motivation, but are the Bengals -- who hold a three-game lead in the division with four to play -- smart enough to understand its importance? A team that's 0-6 in the playoffs since 2005, with all losses coming in the wildcard round, should be. And they'll be motivated to sweep the Steelers and clinch the division. But the Steelers are playing well and are breathing fire over the 16-10 loss to the Bengals on Nov. 1. Both teams have quality and quantity at the skill positions but the difference should be Roethlisberger, IF he remains patient with what the Bengals give him. The belief is that he will. Steelers, 27-23.


3-4: Steelers' record the second week after traveling to Seattle. The last such win was in 1994 when they beat the Bengals, 14-10.

93: Antonio Brown's number of receptions, giving him his third consecutive 90-catch season. He's on pace for 124 receptions and 1,747 receiving yards after catching 129 for 1,698 last season. No NFL player has ever had back-to-back 125-catch seasons.

20: Chris Boswell's field goals, moving him within five of Kris Brown's team record for most field goals by a rookie/first-year player. Boswell has missed only from 41 and 47 yards.

140: William Gay's consecutive regular-season games played streak is the longest such streak among active NFL cornerbacks.

74.5: Harrison's sacks with the Steelers, putting him within 2.5 of tying Jason Gildon's team record.

6.5: Steelers yards-per-play ranks first in the NFL. The Steelers are 1-2 against the teams -- Arizona, New England, Seattle -- that are ranked second through fourth.


* The Steelers have an eight-game win streak in the month of December, dating back to Dec. 8, 2013, when they lost to Miami at Heinz Field. "You always need to be focused and ready to go," said Roethlisberger, "but usually this time of year you’re trying to make a playoff run, trying to play your best football, so that’s why I guess we try to do our best now."

* The Steelers have scored 30 points or more in four consecutive games, their first such streak since the 1973-74 seasons. The streak ended in Week 3 of the 1974 season with a 17-0 loss to the Oakland Raiders, whom the Steelers later beat in the AFC Championship Game.

* The Steelers have gained 450 or more net yards in four consecutive games in a single season to tie an NFL record held by Kansas City in 2004 and Miami in 1984. "We're moving the ball well," said offensive coordinator Todd Haley. "I know there are areas where we have to continue to improve. Our mentality is that we are in the fourth quarter of the season. This is the stretch run. We have a four-game season. It doesn’t really matter what happened in the past. It’s about these four games, starting with Cincinnati."

* Heath Miller is listed as probable after missing last Sunday's game with a rib injury. He led the Steelers with 10 catches for 105 yards in the 16-10 loss to the Bengals last month. His replacement last week, rookie Jesse James, caught three passes for 30 yards. It was a quality tune-up in case a Bengal, say, puts a helmet in Miller's ribs early in today's game. "He showed good signs," Haley said of James. "He made a couple of good plays in the middle of the field, especially the one on the basic cross, where he had to extend and catch the ball. That’s not a play everybody makes or can make. Again, we are just pushing Jesse. I know Coach (James) Daniel is pushing him, accelerating his learning process, growth and development as fast as we are with all the guys."

* The Bengals are second in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per completion, 10.39 to Denver's 10.36, but will likely be without cornerback Adam Jones, who's doubtful with a foot injury. Strong safety George Iloka is questionable with a groin injury. He missed practice Wednesday and Thursday and was limited in the Friday walk-through. Slot cornerback Leon Hall is questionable with a back injury. He missed Wednesday and Thursday and was a full participant Friday.


"They said some things; we said some things. We don't like them; they don't like us. That's the beauty of it. It's good for the fans. They're going to enjoy it. I'm going to enjoy it. It's going to be a great time." -- Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats.

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