OVERVIEW: The Bengals (10-2) must defeat the Steelers (7-5) if they are to clinch their second AFC North Championship in three years.
The Steelers lead the all-time series between the two teams with a 56-35 record, including a 27-19 record against the Bengals in Cincinnati. Here is a look at how the two teams stack up based on data from our Week 13 BES Rankings:
Both teams are 3-2 in their last five games but the Bengals are trending down, falling from the No. 3 spot in our Week 11 rankings to their current 10th-place position. Meanwhile, the Steelers are trending up, rising from 20th in Week 11 to 15th heading into this contest.
KEY MATCH UP: Steelers Offensive Line vs Bengals Front-Seven
The Steelers supply quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with an explosively potent arsenal of weapons on offense, most notably receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.
Brown’s 1,310 yards receiving ranks second among league leaders while Bryant boasts a deadly average of 20.7 yards per reception, highest among all skill players with +25 receptions on the season. Toss in multi-faceted halfback DeAngelo Williams and emerging No. 3 receiver Markus Wheaton and it becomes easier to understand why the Steelers average 409.1 offensive yards per game, second most in the league.
Nonetheless, if the Steelers offensive line isn’t able to protect Roethlisberger and give him the time needed to exploit a banged-up Bengals secondary then all that offensive weaponry will be nullified . The Steelers Pass Protection Score of 3.11 is backed by their fourth-place league ranking in fewest QB hits allowed with 44. That will be key against a Bengals front-seven that owns a matching 3.11 score in Pass Pressure.
X-FACTOR: Steelers WR Antonio Brown
The Steelers are 5-2 this season when Brown has +100 yards receiving thus they will undoubtedly attempt to get him heavily involved in the game. If Brown has success it will open up the ground game, allowing the Steelers to deploy a balanced attack against a rugged Bengals defense ranked No. 7 by the BES with a daunting Point Suppression score of 3.18.