PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 06: Larry Foote #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to be the sleeper player of the game Sunday. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
It doesn't take Tomlin to point out, however, these are not the Bengals of the last two meetings - Pittsburgh won both games they played last year.
It's going to take a special effort for the Steelers to improve to 7-3 - and get their first divisional win.
Much of that will be anchored on the loud and boisterous shoulders of LB Larry Foote.
Surprise? Foote had a strong all-around performance against Baltimore in Week 9, particularly against the run. His blitz rush oftentimes sprung open the middle of the Ravens formidable offensive line, allowing stunt rushes from LB James Harrison and DE Brett Keisel.
The middle will be the focus of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau's attack for the third week in a row. With the return of LB James Farrior, Foote will return to his "buck" linebacker position - assigned to the middle gaps in run support and short hook-to-curl zones in the passing game.
Some suggested second-year OLB Jason Worilds was impressive enough against Baltimore (3 QB pressures) he may continue as the starting OLB in place of LaMarr Woodley (not likely to play Sunday). That would move LB Lawrence Timmons back inside, and Foote would be back on the bench.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin immediately pointed out he's more likely to move Timmons back outside - where he replaced James Harrison for four games during his injury - in order to keep Foote and Farrior inside.
While he's likely to use all the linebackers he has at his disposal, Foote could be a critical component in this game. Cincinnati has a potentially powerful rushing attack, but their short passing game is outstanding. Foote's play around the line of scrimmage could make the difference in this game.
In what could easily be a strong defensive football game, Pittsburgh's depth at linebacker will be tested. Foote looks ready to step up and make a few plays.