Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gameday: Cincinnati Bengals

Namesake of the Cleveland Browns Stadium
TV: CBS (map)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Run The Ball

Le'Veon Bell has been an absolute workhorse for the Steelers the last two games, but it has not translated to points being put on the scoreboard. Part of this has to do with the Steelers abandoning the run in the red zone in favor of some totally bizarre play-calling. The Steelers will need a big game out of their offensive line in order to control the Bengals deep and talented defensive front. If the Steelers aren't able to run the ball, they could be in for a long day with Ben Roethlisberger throwing against a very good group of corners. On the other side, the Benglas have had much more success on the ground than in the air this year. Rookie RB Jeremy Hill has been an absolute monster over the last 5 weeks, filling in for an injured Gio Bernard. Bernard is back and the two form one of the better 1-2 punches in the league. Bernard has given the Steelers fits catching passes out of the backfield in the past, and Hill has a power running style that could give the Steelers arm-tackling defenders troubles.

2. AJ Green vs Ike Taylor

Ike got moved around last week in his first game back from injury, covering both Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. In typical Ike fashion, he looked like an absolute shut down corner on some plays (against Graham) and totally overmatched on others (against Stills). In all likelihood, the Bengals will want to test Ike by trying to get him matched up with AJ Green. Then again, the Steelers haven't shown they can cover anyone this season, so the Bengals may just line up and play, which brings us to...

3. The Inconsistent Andy Dalton

The Bengals made Andy Dalton the highest paid ginger of all time this offseason by signing him to a 6-year $115 million contract. Dalton has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, throwing 13 TDs and 13 INTs. Dalton has thrown multiple picks in 4 of his 12 games this season, including a 3 INT game last week against Tampa. This hasn't stopped the Bengals from winning as they have been good enough on defense and in their running game to make up for Dalton's deficiencies. Will the Steelers actually be opportunistic enough to take advantage of Dalton's mistakes downfield or will they give him free rein to throw the ball all over the field like Drew Brees last week?

4. Good Ben vs Bad Ben

For as inconsistent as Dalton has been, Big Ben has been hot and cold in his performances as well. The defense has been so bad this season, that the team has lived and died on Ben's ability to have a big game. Unfortunately, Ben playing just okay isn't good enough for this team to win football games. Ben needs to be lights out. Ben was not sharp in the first half against New Orleans and there were some conflicting reports about the severity of his injured hand but it obviously affected his play. That said, Ben has had some excellent games in the past where he has played injured. Don't forget, he won a Super Bowl with a broken thumb on his throwing hand.

5. Remember When

Back in May, the Steelers had the 15th pick in the draft and after Kyle Fuller was picked by the Bears, everyone assumed that the Steelers would take Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard. Instead, the Steelers took Ryan Shazier. Shazier has battled injuries in his rookie season and should return to the lineup this week. Dennard fell all the way to the Bengals and he has played in 7 games this season and has not seen the field much in their base defense as Terence Newman and Leon Hall have been excellent on the outside. The Shazier vs Dennard storyline is something we're going to have to live with for at least the next 5 years of Steelers-Bengals games (like the Shazier vs Mosley storyline when we play the Ravens) and this is Chapter 1 in that story.

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