Preview: Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
When: 8:30 PM ET, Sunday, December 28, 2014
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Cincinnati Bengals earned a playoff slot by knocking off Denver on Monday night, but they have plenty to play for when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night in a showdown for the AFC North title. Cincinnati has to overcome a short week following Monday's win and find a way to avenge a 21-point home loss to the Steelers on Dec. 7. “I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. “It’s always good to be playing meaningful football in December.”
Pittsburgh has won three straight and seven of nine to return to the postseason following a two-year hiatus that featured consecutive 8-8 records. The Steelers scored 25 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to stun Cincinnati three weeks ago and will claim the No. 3 seed with a victory. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton missed practice Wednesday and is among a number of key players battling the flu while Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green is questionable due to an arm injury.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Steelers -3.5. O/U: 48
ABOUT THE BENGALS (10-4-1): Cincinnati still has an outside shot at earning the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye if Denver somehow loses at home to Oakland, but the biggest concern is the health of Green, who torched the Steelers for 11 catches for 224 yards and a TD earlier this month. Green reported improvement after injuring his arm early in Monday's victory but did not have a catch in that game and was unable to practice Wednesday. Rookie running back Jeremy Hill has rumbled for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the last two wins, but he was limited to 46 yards on eight carries by Pittsburgh. The Bengals picked off Peyton Manning four times Monday, but they were shredded for 543 yards by the Steelers in earlier matchup.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (10-5): Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has established career highs with 4,635 yards and 30 touchdowns (against only eight interceptions) and has the league's most consistent weapon in wide receiver Antonio Brown, who leads the NFL with 122 catches and 1,570 yards. Running back Le'Veon Bell provides outstanding balance to the offense, rushing for 1,341 yards and eight scores to go with 77 receptions and three more touchdowns. Bell has been limited to a combined 110 yards rushing over the last two games, but he piled up 235 total yards and three scores against the Bengals in Week 14. Pittsburgh is vulnerable to the pass, ranking 27th with an average of 255.2 yards allowed, and has only nine interceptions.
1. Hill is the first rookie with four games of at least 140 yards rushing since Curtis Martin (1995).
2. Brown has at least five receptions and 50 yards receiving in a league-record 31 straight games.
3. Dalton has thrown for five TDs and no interceptions in his last three versus the Steelers.
PREDICTION: Steelers 30, Bengals 20
Stats and Records
Pittsburgh Off vs