These two teams went head to head Week 10 last year in Pittsburgh. Looking at the numbers you would guess the Steelers won the game, but the Bengals were able to pull out the 18-12 victory — it was that type of season for both teams. The Cincinnati defense was led by now-backup WLB Brandon Johnson (+5.6), who had a career game with five stops and three combined pressures.
The Steelers’ defense also performed well, with no players scoring in the red. All three lineman shined with inconsistent DE Brett Keisel (+3.5) putting up the best performance. He had four combined pressures and one stop.
The Bengals need to…
Have Ochocinco and T.O. live up to their expectations
The Steelers have a scary front seven that is very difficult to run the ball against … and their pass rush isn’t bad either. Their weakness comes in pass defense, where all four starting defensive backs have negative ratings against the pass. This means the players that need to step up are wide receivers Chad Ochocinco (-6.8) and Terrell Owens (-2.1). The Bengals expected this pair of big-name stars to make this team a potential Super Bowl contender, and now they need them to step up in order to get back to being a respectable team.
The Steelers need to…
Get the ball to Heath Miller
The reason for the Steelers’ success this year has clearly been the defense, but the offense has a few weapons as well. One of their best targets in the pass game is Heath Miller (+1.4). Miller is in the middle of the field 78 percent of the time when he’s thrown at, which is where he will often find MLB Dhani Jones (-6.3). Jones has struggled in all aspects of the game this year, including pass coverage, where QBs have completed 83 percent of passes thrown his way. Look for Miller to have a big game on offense.
Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth vs. Steelers ROLB James Harrison
Arguably the best player on the Steelers’ excellent defense is ROLB James Harrison (+21.2), one of the best pass-rushing outside linebackers in the league as well as one of the best run-stoppers. Luckily for the Bengals, he will be rushing against the best pass-protector: LT Andrew Whitworth (+4.4). In order for the Bengals to have a shot to do anything offensively, Whitworth will need to contain Harrison and make him have one of his worst games of the season.
Steelers WR Mike Wallace vs. Bengals CB Leon Hall
Mike Wallace (0.0) needs to take some lessons in run blocking from his teammate Hines Ward but has a +4.4 rating in the passing game. Still, he’s thrown to infrequently — no more than five targets in any game this year — and the Steelers might do well to target him more. He will likely be up against Bengals CB Leon Hall (+1.1), who has a -1.6 rating against the pass. Although QBs have a low completion rate of 52.8 percent when throwing at Hall, he has allowed 141 yards after the catch on just 19 completions.
Steelers ILB Lawrence Timmons (+18.2) has 34 stops this year, second of all inside linebackers. … Bengals starting LBs Keith Rivers (+0.8) and Dhani Jones (-6.3) have a combined 14 missed tackles this year.