Despite their losing record, the Cincinnati Bengals have playoff hopes in a parity-filled Wildcard race. They've been a tough team to beat for the Steelers, and with Pittsburgh on the road and ailing...the Steelers could be in for a disappointing night.
Here are Bengals to remember for Monday Night Football.
HC: Marvin Lewis, OC: Bill Lazor, DC: Paul Guenther
*No. 14 QB Andy Dalton
"The Red Rifle" is no longer shooting out his own eye and he’s starting to fire on all cylinders again. Dalton's bullseye is hitting No. 18 and he's done that quite a bit as of late. After starting the season with four picks in the opener against Baltimore, No. 14 has eighteen TDs vs. four interceptions since and no picks in his previous five games. Dalton has only three wins out of thirteen games against the Steelers, but he's dangerous nonetheless. Playing behind a pourous offensive line may hinder the Bengals QB against a team that pressures the QB so well. But the Steelers’ defense is showing some regression and Dalton can exploit that quickly.
Other Bengals Quarterbacks to Note: No. 5 A.J. McCarron
*No. 28 RB Joe Mixon
The Steelers are no choir boys, but seeing Mixon on video punching a woman in the face in college was really despicable. When they drafted him in the second round this year, it seemed fitting. Mixon started off slowly in the Queen City, but he’s really elevated the offense since assuming the starting role and feels that he’s even better than Le’Veon Bell. Mixon is clearly the new top cat in the Bengals’ backfield. Expect No. 28 to see a majority of the workload pounding the rock between the tackles against the Steelers. Mixon is averaging 3.2 ypc and has 484 yards and four scores, but leads Bengals backs with 26 catches out of the backfield.
Other Bengals Running Backs to Note: No. 32 Jeremy Hill (IR), No. 25 Giovanni Bernard, No. 23 Brian Hill
*No. 18 WR A.J. Green
Green has been Steeler kryptonite throughout his career. In 12 games against the Black-and-gold, Green has 1,018 yards and six touchdowns. On the year, the six-time Pro Bowl selection has five TDs and 53 catches for 809 yards. The Steelers’ secondary improved and held Green to a mere 43 yards last time around, but Joe Haden was on the field and, this time, his absence leaves Artie Burns on an island. Defending the 6'4" Green will be more difficult on Monday night.
Other Bengals Wide Receivers to Note: *No. 11 Brandon LaFell, No. 83 Tyler Boyd, No. 16 Cody Core, No. 15 John Ross, No. 80 Josh Malone
*No. 81 TE Tyler Kroft
Tyler Kroft has replaced the other Tyler TE quite well and has emerged as a safety valve and a weapon for Andy Dalton. Kroft has 31 catches for 317 yards at an average of 10.1 per catch and five TDs. Just like Eifert (on IR for the remainder of the year), Kroft is 6'6" and extends drives as a red-zone threat.
Other Bengals Tight Ends to Note: No. 87 C.J. Uzomah, No. 89 TE/HB Ryan Hewitt, No. 85 Tyler Eifert (IR), No. 82 Cethan Carter
*No. 70 LT Cedric Ogbuehi
The third-year starter has had his struggles throughout his career and even in 2017. But he’s started to settle in and isn't allowing defenders to get to Andy Dalton as much. T.J. Watt will present a major challenge, but No. 70 has risen up to improve his pass-blocking as of late.
Other Bengals Offensive Linemen to Note: *No. 65 LG Clint Boling, *No. 61 C Russell Bodine, *No. 66 RG Trey Hopkins, No. *71 T Andre Smith, No. 74 RT Jake Fisher (IR), No. 73 T Eric Winston, No. 63 G Christian Westerman, No. 60 C T.J. Johnson, No. 62 G Alex Redmond
*No. 97 DT Geno Atkins
Geno is absolutely dominant anywhere he lines up on the defensive line. Atkins’ game is one of penetration, disruption, dominance and dismantling plays in the backfield. For 2017, No. 97 has seven sacks (nine in 2016) and he’s a leader in Pro Bowl voting. In 14 career games against Pittsburgh, the 5-time Pro Bowler moves all around the line, so the Steelers’ protectors will need to have their heads on a swivel.
Other Bengals Defensive Linemen to Note: *No. 96 LDE Carlos Dunlap, *No. 92 NT Pat Sims, *No. 90 RDE Michael Johnson, No. 94 DE Chris Smith, No. 99 NT Andrew Billings, No. 98 DT Ryan Glasgow, No. 75 DE Jordan Willis
*No. 55 WLB Vontaze Burfict
Burfict needs no introduction to Steelers Nation. He plays with a brutal mentality that knows no boundaries. But he’s a thoroughly dominant presence at all times on defense and must always be accounted for. This season, Burfict has 44 combined tackles and two sacks. The Steelers need to be sure that Burfict doesn't unnecessarily inflict injury on their teammates, as he’s been known to attempt and succeed. That might be easier said than done. Roosevelt Nix was employed to neutralize him.
Other Bengals Linebackers to Note: *No. 59 SLB Nick Vigil, *No. 51 MLB Kevin Minter, No. 58 SLB Carl Lawson, No. 57 MLB Vincent Rey, No. 50 Jordan Evans, No. 56 Hardy Nickerson Jr
*No. 27 LCB Dre' Kirkpatrick
Kirkpatrick has always played the Steelers well. In fact, he is one of the few defensive backs that Antonio Brown has continually faced and fails to dominate. The Bengals and mainly No. 27 have held Brown to 31 catches on 58 targets over their last six meetings. But Kirkpatrick can get flustered against Brown and commit penalties. These two will tangle and scuffle frequently on MNF. Over his career, Dre has ten picks (one against the Steelers) but only one this season so far.
Other Bengals Defensive Backs to Note: *No. 36 SS Shawn Williams, *No. 43 FS George Iloka, *No. 24 RCB Adam Jones, No. 26 CB Josh Shaw, No. 21 CB Darqueze Dennard, No. 22 CB William Jackson III, No. 20 CB KelVare Russell, No. 42 FS Clayton Fejedelem
*No. 12 PR/KR Alex Erickson
Erickson is a dangerous threat returning kicks and is capable of breaking off a long one, so the Steelers need to account for him.
Other Bengals Special Teamers to Note: *No. 10 P Kevin Huber, *No. 4 K Randy Bullock, No. 46 LS Clark Harris, PR No. 24 Adam Jones, PR No. 83 Tyler Boyd, KR No. 28 Joe Mixon