clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Steelers vs. Bengals preview: What to expect in Week 16, news, injury updates & more

The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16 of the 2023 NFL season. Here’s a look at what to expect.

Nick Herbig #51 of the Pittsburgh Steelers sacks Jake Browning #6 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter at Paycor Stadium on November 26, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals will play their second and final regular season matchup in Week 16 — a must-win game for both with massive playoff implications on the line.

Kickoff is set for Saturday, December 23 at 4:30 p.m. ET at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA. Here’s a preview of all you need to know for the Steelers-Benagals game in Week 16, including game information, injury updates, odds and more.

These two teams met for the first time in 2023 just four weeks ago — a game that marked the Steelers’ first game without former offensive coordinator Matt Canada and the Bengals’ first game starting Jake Browning at quarterback, subbing in for an injured Joe Burrow. Pittsburgh took full advantage of that momentum, posting their first 400-yard day on offense dating back to the 2021 season, improving to 7-4 while the Bengals fell to 5-6 with their season looking all but over.

Boy, have things changed in the weeks since. The Steelers have gone on a three-game losing streak, including back-to-back losses to teams that entered the week at 2-10. The Bengals, meanwhile, have won each of their last three, enjoying offensive success under backup-turned-starter Jake Browning, in a position that would earn them the No. 6 seed if the season ended today.

The story of the Bengals was never one that’s started with the defense (as is the case with Pittsburgh)... The real story has always been surrounding the Bengals offense, the trio of Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, their offensive line, and veteran Joe Mixon. That made it all the more heartbreaking for Bengals fans when Burrow was declared out for the season. However, since getting dropped in his first career start to the Steelers, Browning’s looked increasingly competent, well beyond what you’d expect from a “game manager”,

Over the past three weeks, in fact, Browning has tied to lead the league with 953 passing yards, leading the league with a 76.7% completion rate while ranking second in the league with a 9.3 yards per attempt average. His 112.6 passer rating ranks third among quarterbacks over the past three, only behind current favorite for NFL MVP Brock Purdy and kick of efficiency, Tua Tagovailoa. In short, this kid has been really good. Given the injuries the Steelers are managing at safety, set to be without Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee), Damontae Kazee (suspension), Keanu Neal (IR) and potentially Elijah Riley (questionable to be activated from IR), Browning very well could be in a position to carve this defense up.

The Bengals will be without their top receiving option, as star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was ruled out for Week 16 with a shoulder injury, which is a huge hit. However, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Trenton Irwin have proven themselves a more than capable unit.

The Bengals defense will also be without two top contributors, including cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt (ankle) and defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who’s set to miss the rest of the season with a torn quad suffered in Week 15. The Steelers’ offensive line will need to remain vigilant in protecting against DE Trey Hendrickson, however, who is playing out of his mind. Hendrickson has already notched career-highs with his 15.0 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 37 combined tackles with three games still left to go.

What have the Steelers been up to since they last faced the Bengals in Week 12?

Well... that’s a loaded question. Beyond going 0-3, they also lost quarterback Kenny Pickett to an ankle injury that will keep him out yet again in Week 16. As noted above, their depth at safety has been completely decimated by several injuries and a suspension for Damontae Kazee, while they’ve still struggled to figure out a solution at inside linebacker following the loss of Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander for the season.

This week, the team will give veteran Mason Rudolph the start over Mitch Trubisky, making his first start since Week 10 of the 2021 season — a 16-16 tie against the Detroit Lions where he threw for 242 passing yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The good news is that Rudolph has been with this team dating back to 2018. He’s a seasoned veteran who knew the inner workings of this unit before all of the drama, before Matt Canada, and before a “winning record” became the only standard.

Rudolph has a 5-4-1 record as a starter, with the bulk of that experience coming back in 2019, filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a season-ending elbow injury. Rudulph totaled 1,765 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions that season, bouncing in and out of the lineup due to a concussion and eventual benching in favor of backup Devlin “Duck” Hodges.

The good news is that despite the turnover the Steelers offense has seen since Rudolph’s last start, he’ll find some consistency in WR Diontae Johnson, who’s been Rudolph’s most targeted receiver through the course of his career. Johnson has averaged 8.5 targets per game from Rudolph and could be in for a busy day if the Steelers fall behind in this game due to lapses on the defense.

Steelers vs. Bengals: Head-to-head stats 2023

Stat Steelers Bengals
Stat Steelers Bengals
Yards per game 287.1 318.8
Yards per play 4.8 5.2
Touchdowns 22 34
Giveaways 14 12
Penalties-Yards 78-703 69-564
D/ST touchdowns 2 2
Points allowed/gm 20 22.2
Yards allowed/gm 346.8 382.4
Turnovers/gm 1.5 1.64
Sacks 39 38

On paper, this Steelers unit is far outmatched by their Bengals counterparts in nearly every statistical measure — especially on offense. The Bengals are more productive on offense, averaging more yards per game, more yards per play, having scored a whopping 12 more touchdowns than Pittsburgh while turning the ball over two fewer times. They’re less penalized, forcing more turnovers per game... you get the picture.

The Steelers’ greatest advantage over the Bengals defensively is that they’re allowing nearly 40 fewer yards and two fewer points per game... but if the offense can’t capitalize on that, does any of it really matter?

Steelers-Bengals Week 16 odds, betting splits

Heading into the weekend, the Steelers are installed as 3-point home underdogs on DraftKings Sportsbook, with the odds having moved 1.5 points in Cincy’s favor over the course of the week. The over/under is set at 38 points.

Just one day out from kickoff, the majority of point spread bets (77%) and the handle (71%) on point spread bets for the Steelers-Bengals game have been wagered on the Bengals to cover. The public is also leaning toward the under on the point total, with 58% of bets and 56% of the handle on the Steelers-Bengals point total coming in on the under.

All odds come courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.