Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
December 4, 8:30 pm EST, ESPN
The Bengals are at a crossroads, having played respectable football the last two weeks and remaining within reach of a playoff spot. Should the Bengals continue to play well, the last AFC Wild Card selection might well be determined by the last game of the season between the Bengals and Ravens, but until then, their chances will largely ride on the strength of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s performances (5 TDs, no INTs the last two games) and the accelerating learning curve of rookie running back Joe Mixon (114 yards on 23 carries last week). Should both show up tonight, the Steelers’ unexpectedly solid defense will face a few challenges, especially if wideout A.J. Green manages to get some separation against a secondary missing cornerback Joe Haden.
The AFC-leading Steelers will counter with their typical attack; lots of play-action passing and off-timed runs to current NFL yardage leader, RB Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers welcome back wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster tonight, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some passes go his way early to allow him to re-establish a rhythm with the rest of the offense. Expect a lot of action on the interior, as they Steelers have been attacking the middle of the field with both the run and the pass, while Bell has been operating primarily off the guards for the last few weeks.
Bengals – Dalton, Mixon, Green. Yeah, it’s that obvious.
Steelers – Bell, WR Martavis Bryant, CB Artie Burns