The Pittsburgh Steelers’ quest for supremacy in the AFC returns back home this Sunday as they look to take on a divisional foe, the Cincinnati Bengals. After a victory over the AFC leading Kansas City Chiefs last week, the Steelers can overtake them for top seed with a win over the Bengals. While the rivalry and matchup will be decided by high intensity blows between two of the NFL’s fiercest rivals, here are a few factors lost in the midst of the carnage that will shape Sunday’s contest.
Over the course of their last eight matchups, including playoffs, the Bengals have only once rushed for over 100 yards against the Steelers’ defense. The Bengals have not rushed for over 100 yards against the Steelers since the 2014 season finale. The Steelers have done a great job at limiting the Bengals’ running backs as both Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard have struggled to pound the football against the Steelers since their NFL debut.
Bernard: averaging 6 carries for 23.6 yards in seven regular season games vs Steelers.
Hill: averaging 14 carries for 47.8 yards in six regular season games vs Steelers.
The Steelers will get a new test Sunday as they a look at Bengals’ rookie running back Joe Mixon for the first time. The Steelers will hope to limit Mixon just the same as the rookie is only averaging a miniscule 2.8 yards per carry this season.
Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown has failed to eclipse over 100 receiving yards in his last four regular season matchups vs the Bengals. Brown has not recording over 100 yards receiving against the Bengals since 2014, averaging five receptions for 57.8 yards in the four matchups since his last 100-yard performance.
Brown will look to get back on track Sunday as he continues his record setting start against a banged-up Bengals secondary that will likely be without Pacman Jones.
The Bengals are turning the ball over on 16.7 percent of their drives this season, the third highest rate in the NFL. A major reason for the Bengals high turnover rate is the play of quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals quarterback has six interceptions on the year and two fumbles lost. Dalton has also averaged almost an interception a game against the Steelers with 11 interceptions in 12 games played against the black and gold.
Sunday’s divisional clash could be an opportunity for the Steelers’ defense to restart their lengthy turnover streak that was ended in last Sunday’s victory over the Chiefs.
Steelers’ defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt will miss Sunday’s game with a back injury, which could spell trouble for the run defense. Tuitt has now missed four games in his career and in his absence the Steelers’ defense has allowed an average of 166 rushing yards per game. In fact, the Steelers rush defense has allowed over 200 rushing yards twice with Tuitt sidelined.
Bengals’ wide receiver A.J. Green has put up crooked numbers in 11 regular season games against the Steelers. Green has amassed 71 receptions for 975 yards and 6 touchdowns against the Steelers, his highest total of receptions and yardage against any AFC North foe.
The offseason acquisition of cornerback Joe Haden could come up huge in finally being able to limit Green, who has struggled against the Pro Bowl corner over his career. As Dave Bryan pointed out earlier this week in a very informative article, Green has been effectively shut down by Haden when the two line up across from each other.