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Steelers vs. Bengals Pregame Focus: Cincinnati's running game will set up their success

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BenJarvis Green-Ellis and the Bengals underrated offensive line create a serious threat against the Steelers' run defense.

John Grieshop

Few running backs in the NFL not named Peterson are hotter than Bengals RB BenJarvis Green-Ellis. A big part of the Bengals' current five wins in six games streak is due to their ability to get Law Firm going.

Granted, only one of their games was against a top-caliber run defense (San Diego, No. 7), and only one more against an average statistical run defense (Dallas No. 15). The difference is the Bengals are committing to running the ball - something they hadn't really done much of this season.

Green-Ellis went over 1,000 yards for the second time in his career with a 25-carry, 106 yard performance against Philadelphia in Week 14. In his last five games, he has 543 yards and three touchdowns on 106 carries (5.1 yards per carry).

The key here is the team's success with that kind of production. He had 12 carries against Dallas and they lost. They won the other four games, in which he carried the ball 19 times, and three games of 25 carries. Cincinnati won all four.

As tempting as it may be for the Bengals to plan one of those seemingly desperate 40-plus attempt games for quarterback Andy Dalton, the smart money for them is to get that ground game going early.

As we highlighted earlier this week, a big part of their success is a zone concept that utilizes power in tight situations. They've perfected this since the Steelers' defense decimated Cincinnati's offense in a Week 7 win. The Bengals will challenge the Steelers' sideline-to-sideline speed as well as their technique along the line.

DE Ziggy Hood and OLB LaMarr Woodley should expect a dozen tackle opportunities each, and their ability to hold that offensive right side at bay will be the key factor in the outcome of this game.

Discipline and strength at the point of attack. If the two of them can withstand the outstanding play of Cincinnati's underrated offensive line or Cincinnati decides to test Pittsburgh's pass defense, Pittsburgh can keep them off the scoreboard.

If they can't, it might be a long afternoon.