Tale Of The Tape: Cincinnati Bengals At Pittsburgh Steelers
- QuarterbackThe Bengals are attempting to rise to peak form as they go down the stretch in the NFL, and they just may accomplish that goal. Andy Dalton has not had a spectacular season, but he had perhaps his best game of the year in the Bengals 42-28 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14. The normally up-and-down Dalton completed 24-of-35 passes for 275 yards with three TDs and no interceptions.The Steelers have had a disappointing season and no longer have a shot at making the playoffs, but Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and dangerous. Roethlisberger has completed 320-of-500 passes for 3,724 yards with a 24-10 TD-interception ratio. Roethlisberger can shake off the initial wave of the pass rush, buy time and then hit the open receiver.
- OffenseThe Bengals are quite dangerous on offense because they can soften up the defense with the power running of BenJarvus Green-Ellis or break big plays outside with speed back Giovanni Bernard. Wide receiver A.J. Green is one of the best big-play wideouts in the league, while Marvin Jones is a top-notch complementary receiver who has eight TD receptions.The Steelers are struggling to put together any kind of credible running game. Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell appears to have the size, strength and power to be a prototypical Pittsburgh running back, but he’s not there yet. Wide receiver Antonio Brown has been prolific with 90 catches for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns. Fellow wideout Jerricho Cotchery gets single coverage and he has nine TD catches.
- DefenseThe Bengals came into the season thinking their defense would be a consistent asset and it has not disappointed. The Bengals are big, athletic and hard hitting. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is one of the best tacklers in the league. He leads the team with a remarkable 139 stops. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap is a solid pass rusher and he has a team-high 7.0 sacks.The Steelers have struggled on defense throughout the season. While this area has been the calling card of the team for years, they have slowed down and don’t have the speed to keep up with faster opponents. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons has been playing well all season and he has a team-high 103 tackles. Troy Polamalu can still be a difference maker, but he gambles and loses too often.
- Special TeamsThe Bengals have been quite impressive in their punt and kickoff coverage. They refuse to give up big plays, but head coach Marvin Lewis would like to see Brandon Tate hit a big return. Placekicker Mike Nugent has made 16-of-20 FG attempts, including 3-of-4 from 50 yards or longer.The Steelers have done a reasonably good job of covering kickoffs and punts, and Brown has the speed to break a long punt return of his own. Shaun Suisham has had an excellent season, as he has made 24-of-26 FG attempts.
There’s not much pressure on the Steelers at this point since they are not going to make the playoffs. That means they should be able to relax and play their best game against the Bengals. Don’t be surprised to see the Steelers come through here. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor