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Behind Enemy Lines: The Steelers blitzing Andy Dalton with regularity is a 'Catch-22'

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Leading up to the huge game in Week 14 between the Steelers and Bengals, I was able to sit down with Cincy Jungle to talk about the upcoming game, from the other side of the fence.

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The Week 14 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals is by far the biggest game on the NFL schedule. Leading up to game time, I was lucky enough to sit down with Scott Bantel of Cincy Jungle (SB Nation's Bengals website) to discuss this game from the other side of the fence. Take a look at our conversation below, and for all your information from the Bengals' perspective, be sure to check out Cincy Jungle for the best Bengals coverage around.

The Bengals have struggled in big time games. What is the biggest difference between the team with regular season success and the one with big game failures?

To me, this is one of the most overplayed storylines in the national media...aka, ESPN. There is no doubt that the Bengals (and Dalton) have a poor record on the national stage and in the playoffs, but in my opinion, it is easily explainable. Over the last four years, the Bengals were a good team - better than the weak and average teams - but not as good as the top tier teams...which are the teams they are playing in the playoffs and national matchups. In my opinion, the 2011, 2012 and 2014 teams overachieved by making the playoffs and were not good enough to win in the playoffs. In three of their four playoff losses, they were the wildcard team and were definitely the lesser team. While you would like to see them pull off the upset at least one out of three tries, none of those teams were good enough - in my opinion - to reasonably expect that to happen. The one that hurt was the home game in 2013 against the Chargers. That Bengals team was good enough to win.

I think the difference this year is that their quarterback has finally developed to the point where he is good enough to win in the playoffs. If they can't win in the playoffs this season, I believe they will deserve all of the criticism they will inevitably receive.

Cincinnati has a lot of injuries currently. What are, if any, some key injuries to keep an eye on as the game approaches?

The Bengals are decimated in their secondary - probably the worst spot to be hurting when playing this Steelers team.

To start the season, the Bengals secondary was their deepest position, featuring five first round players (Adam Jones, Leon Hall, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard and Reggie Nelson) - all of which were playing at a top level. Through the first nine weeks, that depth stayed intact. Unfortunately for the Bengals - fortunate for the Steelers - the Bengals have burned through that depth rapidly the last few weeks. Coming into this game, Dre Kirkpatrick is the only healthy starting corner (and he has been their weakest corner thus far).

The biggest injury is Adam Jones (foot). PFF currently has Jones ranked in the top 10 at the cornerback position and he has clearly been the Bengals best corner thus far. While I don't believe he can shut down Antonio Brown - I don't think any corner can - his speed, quickness and aggressiveness makes him the only corner on this team (and one of the few in all of the NFL), who has a chance to cover Brown.

The corner who would take his place, 2014 first round pick Darqueze Dennard, was lost for the season three weeks ago with a shoulder injury. Their nickel corner, Leon Hall, will play, but has a nagging back injury that kept him out last week and limited him this week in practice - in fact, he probably would not play if they weren't so thin at CB at the moment. Starting opposite Kirkpatrick will likely be rookie fourth round pick, Josh Shaw - who himself left mid-game last week with a scary back injury. The fourth corner will be a rookie, Troy Hill, who was just pulled off the practice squad last week and had to play about 50% of the snaps due to the injuries above. To make matters worse, the Bengals rangy, hard hitting safety, George Iloka, who missed last week (groin), is listed as questionable, and if he does play, he will be less than 100%.

Needless to say, I don't think this injury laden secondary can cover the Steelers explosive receivers and the Steelers have to be licking their chops.

What worked so well limiting the Steelers to 10 points in their first meeting, and will they deploy a similar technique, in your opinion?

Pressure on Roethlisberger. The Bengals had three sacks, six quarterback hits and were able to keep Ben from getting comfortable in the pocket. More importantly, they made him throw the ball a split second before he wanted to, and as a result, they were able to force some errant throws and three interceptions. With all the injuries the Bengals have in their secondary, I believe the pressure on Roethlisberger will be the key to this game. If Geno Atkins can set up camp behind the Steelers line like he has the past few weeks against the Bengals other opponents, the Bengals might be able to hide their depleted secondary...emphasis on might. However, if Roethlisberger is provided time, he (and his receivers) will pick the Bengals secondary apart.

The Steelers love to blitz and pressure the QB. How has Dalton done in recent weeks against pressure?

Like most quarterbacks, Dalton's number decrease under pressure, and while he has handled the pressure better this year, he still struggles. There have only been two games this season where Dalton has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, and not surprising, those were the two games he seemed to be under the most duress - Pittsburgh and Houston. In fact, the only game this season Dalton has thrown multiple picks (2), was the game in Pittsburgh. As you know, the Steelers had pretty consistent pressure on him throughout that game and forced him into his worst quarterback rating of the season (64.7). However, the Bengals line was struggling during that part of the season - they have been much improved the past two weeks, especially against the Rams solid defensive front. Blitzing Dalton can be a catch 22 though, because much like the Steelers, the Bengals have weapons on offense to make teams pay if they bring extra rushers and don't hit home. If the Steelers can pressure Dalton like they did in Week 8, they will be able to force a turnover or two. However, if the Bengals line performs as they have the past few weeks and keep the pressure off Dalton, it could backfire on the Steelers.

How do you see this game unfolding? Prediction?

I agree with you that this will be a high scoring game. I had the Bengals winning this game in my original predictions, so I am going to stick with that - though I must admit, given the Bengals injuries in the secondary, I am a little less confident in that pick. This very well could come down to who has the ball last. I will say Bengals 31, Steelers 27.