In the past, this feature has been heavily dominated by three players; wide receiver A.J. Green, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
This time, a change has to be made.
Sorry, even I couldn't get through that with a straight face. The Bengals have three excellent core players, and they aren't ashamed of them being their three-best players.
Green, despite missing some time with injury, represents perhaps the most dangerous player on any given play in the NFL. He has great size and athleticism, and the Bengals will get him the ball in any situation. Quarterback Andy Dalton has targeted Green an obscene 70 times in six career games against the Steelers. He has been targeted 15 times or more in three of those six games, including both games last season. He's absolutely and without a doubt the key player in the Bengals' game plan Sunday.
Atkins, before a torn ACL derailed his 2013 season, is still fighting back from that injury, meaning he's merely an outstanding football player right now, not the superhuman freak he was previously. That's good news for the Steelers - Atkins welcomed Steelers right guard David DeCastro to the NFL in Week 15 of 2012 with a vicious rip move and sack in Week 15. He's still an excellent player and capable of causing plenty of disruption to the interior of the Steelers' offensive line.
The Steelers will struggle to produce the same kind of disruption largely because of an excellent Bengals' offensive line, spearheaded by left tackle Andrew Whitworth. He quietly has been one of the game's best blind-side protectors over the last few seasons, and is again playing at a high level. Considering the Steelers will likely be without right outside linebacker James Harrison (doubtful for this game with a knee injury), Jarvis Jones may end up getting his first action since Week 3 against one of the game's best.
Adding him to the Steelers would be helpful in their chances of winning this game.
Of those three, flip a coin. Any one of them would provide a boost to the Steelers - imagine Green split wide with Antonio Brown opposite him or underneath, or being able to move Kelvin Beachum inside or to right tackle with Whitworth at left or Atkins lined up pretty much anywhere on the defensive line and doing his thing.
We'd be more than happy to have this decision to make. We couldn't possibly make a bad choice. Ultimately, we're going with Atkins. Left tackle isn't as significant of a problem right now as depth on the defensive line and, as freakishly talented as Green is, there isn't really a problem now with the Steelers' passing game.
And Geno Atkins is a freak when healthy (otherwise, he's merely an excellent football player).
It would certainly be nice though. And it'll be a tough assignment for the Steelers on Sunday facing these three NFL stars. Expect each of them to make an impact Sunday when they host the Steelers.