His Name is Dalton
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton did a nice job in Cincinnati's Week 2 win over the Steelers, a game also played on Sunday Night Football. But historically, the Steelers have gotten the best of Dalton, especially in Pittsburgh. In two games (1-1), he's completed 54 percent of his passes, and averages 206 yards per game. He's improved quite a bit throughout his career, but one of a few hurdles he still has to clear is a high level performance against the Steelers. He's also thrown at least one interception in all but three of his 14 starts this season.
The Steelers were down a few key players in their Week 2 loss to the Bengals, most notably, the other half of tight end Heath Miller. TE David Paulson was brutalized against the aggressive Bengals' defense, but with the inclusion of Matt Spaeth (he played 17 snaps against Miami in his first game this season) and Miller looks much more healthy than he did - Week 2 was his first game this season. That will help stabilize the edge, and prevent defensive end Michael Johnson from having one of the best games of his career - like he did in Week 2. That will give the Steelers a much more dynamic passing game, and the opportunity to exploit Cincinnati's secondary.
A New Look
With LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds both healthy and capable of playing at a high level, they may give an outstanding Bengals offensive line a run for its money. Worilds has made an impact in each of his last six games, and Woodley is just getting his injured calf back to 100 percent. Facing off against perhaps the best tandem of tackles in the NFL - Andrew Whitworth (who should return to left tackle with the return of right guard Kevin Zeitler) and Andre Smith - both teams look to enter this game at full strength. But the Steelers have more recent experience in continuity, and the play of Cameron Heyward could be a factor in holding that edge. If the Steelers can limit the Bengals on the ground, they've showed they can limit Dalton and Green in the passing game.
Bell and Brown Coming to Town
The Bengals had dual luxuries in their Week 2 win. They had cornerback Leon Hall, and they did not face Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers have ridden Antonio Brown and their receiving corps to a solid level of success this season, and their back seven defensive players will have an interesting challenge on their hands with the multi-faceted duo of Brown and Bell. Pittsburgh has been exploiting this matchup with multiple route options and a much stronger sense of fluidity through their entire offense.
He Doesn't Quit
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has vowed as long as he's on the field, the team won't quit. He didn't play well against Cincinnati in their season-ending 13-10 loss, but entering in his second December game this year, he's healthy at this point in the season for the first time since 2010. If not for a key fumble in last week's loss to Miami, Roethlisberger may have been able to lead this team to victory last week. With some wind but no large snow accumulation, the conditions are right for his kind of game. And he gives the Steelers the ultimate advantage; the one under center.
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