Ohio State Penitentiary
What to Watch For
1. Injury Report
There's no getting around it, the Steelers are a banged up team. Mendenhall, Redman, Gilbert, Pouncey, and Polamalu are all likely out for the game. And that's just the starters. Jonathan Dwyer and Mike Adams figure to make the first starts of their careers. The Steelers called OL John Malecki up from the practice squad, and he will likely get a helmet as a reserve lineman. Hopefully the guys up front can stay healthy, as 7th round pick Kelvin Beachum figures to be the top backup on the line.
2. Ike Taylor vs AJ Green
This might be the single biggest matchup of the night. Ike has struggled with penalties the last few weeks, and AJ Green might be the best receiver he faces all season. Green is a legit talent in the mold of Calvin Johnson with elite size, speed, and high-pointing ability. Ike made a name for himself shutting down another Bengals receiver, and will have to have his best game of the season against Green this week.
From the limited times I've seen the Bengals this year, they run a lot of misdirection plays - especially end-arounds to their WRs on 3rd and medium yardage. They do have BenJarvis Green-Ellis in the backfield who is a solid running back but he isn't an explosive runner. They try to get big plays in the running game by getting the ball into the hands of their WRs on misdirection runs. The Steelers will need to maintain their backside discipline and not get caught crashing down the line.
4. Pressure, Pressure, Pressure
Pressure creates turnovers, and pressure is something the Steelers haven't had a whole lot of this season. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are both slated to start and Andy Dalton has been shaky so far this season. You would think this is an ideal scenario for the Steelers, and we can only hope that Harrison and Woodley are healthy enough to get the job done. Jason Worlids is actually leading the AFC North in sacks with 3 this season, but he hasn't been able to get consistent pressure when he has played. On the line, Keisel and Hood have not played up to standard, but Cam Heyward isn't getting nearly enough playing time to make a difference. Against Tennessee, Keisel and Hood got 60 snaps each while Heyward only played 16.
5. Just. Win.
At this point, it doesn't really matter who steps up for the Steelers, we just need someone to do it. We are sitting at 2-3 and had chances to win each of the 3 games that we didn't. You can place blame on whoever you would like for each of the 3 losses, but the fact of the matter is that we just didn't make the plays necessary to come out victorious. Someone has to step up and make big plays down the stretch, both on offense and defense, to bring home the victory. Here we go.