By Christina Rivers

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the month of December doing what most teams in the league do: pushing themselves harder in order to get to the playoffs. December has been good to the Steelers since the 2013 season. In that time period, Pittsburgh has won their last eight games and three of those wins came against the Cincinnati Bengals. As the Steelers work to improve on that record this week at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday afternoon, they are looking at the AFC North-leading Bengals as a team that is standing in the way of their goals to make this December just as successful.

The Steelers lost their last match with the Bengals at Heinz Field during week eight by a score of 16-10, but in the back of their minds is the fact that since 2010 they have tied for third in the league with the best record in their final four games of the season (14-6) and sit tied at second for the final month of the season (including regular season games in January) with an 18-6 record. Sunday will be a high-energy, high-emotion game that players have been preparing for this week with a new level of anticipation.

Roethlisberger talks about playing the best football against Cincinnati

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had a season that has been about as atypical as a player in the league can experience. From injury and sideline duties to entering a game as a backup to Landry Jones and a four-game streak throwing for more than 300 yards per game, Roethlisberger said he is wired in. “You always need to be focused and ready to go,” Roethlisberger said on Wednesday. “This time of year you are always trying to make a playoff run, trying to play your best football, so I guess that is why we try to do our best now.” With the Bengals at the beginning of 2015’s final four games, Roethlisberger admitted the task ahead is daunting. “It’s going to be hard to have much more than a divisional opponent at their place who is arguably the best team in football,” said Roethlisberger. “I’ve got to believe it’s already going to be about as competitive as you can get.”

Roethlisberger has found a rhythm heading into December. He has completed 106 passes for 1.533 yards in the past four games and had a combined average quarterback rating of 104.125. “We expect (Paul Brown Stadium) to be loud and rowdy and crazy,” said Roethlisberger as he looks forward to the game. “As a competitor, you enjoy that opportunity…going down there to play Cincinnati, a divisional opponent, just always adds a little extra something to it.”

Cleveland’s goal-post finish the talk of Steelers Nation and league

After being inserted into the game against the Colts as the punt returner after Jacoby Jones struggled, an already high-octane Antonio Brown culminated an 118-yard receiving game by returning a 71-point kick for a touchdown. Brown in full elation entered the end zone, jumped in the air and bear-hugged the padded goal post, creating one of the most-watched viral NFL videos of the week and season. “There was a lot of excitement and passion,” Brown said following the win over Indianapolis. “[I] tried to stick it at the end with the goal post and it wasn’t something that went very well. It was spur of the moment. It is just the excitement of the game and when you decide to do a play like that, you just get excited.”

Although Brown likely will be asked not to repeat the action that drew a flag for illegally using the goal post “as a prop”, something that had never been heard coming from the mouth of an on-field official, he is on track to have a December to remember. Named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, Brown has put together a three-of-four game streak of at least 100 yards receiving yards headed into Sunday’s game. “We have the best quarterback in the NFL. We have a great offensive line and running back. Each and every one of us takes pride in the game,” Brown said after the game, “and we’re doing a great job…I’m looking forward to playing Cincinnati and to our games in the next four weeks.”

Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.