SERIES HISTORY: 95th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 59-35. The Steelers have won four consecutive and seven of the past eight in the series. The Steelers have won the past three and five of the past six at Paul Brown Stadium. These teams have met in the postseason twice, with the Steelers winning wild-card games at Paul Brown Stadium in the 2005 and 2015 seasons.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers have morphed back into a passing team in recent weeks, but they will need a strong running game to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati. That’s how the Steelers eventually wore down the Bengals when they played at Heinz Field last month.
Ben Roethlisberger completed just 14 passes in the first meeting, but he did throw for two touchdowns. Running back Le’Veon Bell did most of the damage, with 134 rushing yards.
That kind of balance will be important again against a Bengals defense that is 10th in the NFL in points allowed (19.5 per game).
Every time the Bengals are in the need of a huge victory, it’s the Steelers and Roethlisberger who stand in the way. And the formula for the Bengals is always the same: Control Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, and try to pressure Roethlisberger.
On offense, the Bengals could use another 100-yard performance from rookie Joe Mixon and a solid day from an offensive line that has shown improvement in recent weeks.
Quarterback Andy Dalton might be able to exploit a banged-up Steelers secondary, which could mean a field day for wide receiver A.J. Green.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Steelers CB Coty Sensabaugh. Joe Haden will miss his third straight game with a fractured fibula. Sensabaugh is expected to make his third start in Haden’s place. Haden and Green have had some classic matchups over the years; now it’s the six-year veteran Sensabaugh’s turn.
–Steelers NT Javon Hargrave vs. Bengals RB Joe Mixon. The Steelers’ run defense has been terrific during their six-game winning streak and Hargrave has done a good job in the middle clogging things up for opposing ballcarriers. He’ll have to be at his best against the Bengals because Mixon will test the Steelers. He had some success in the first meeting in October, running for 48 yards on seven carries.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Steelers FS Mike Mitchell. Along with other Steelers defensive backs in recent weeks, Mitchell has struggled with his tackling, especially after opposing receivers catch deep balls. Twice in the past three games, Mitchell has failed to get receivers to the ground after they caught deep passes short of the end zone. The Steelers need Mitchell to play better this week because the Bengals have one of the NFL’s best deep threats in A.J. Green, who has 809 yards and six touchdowns.
FAST FACTS: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 33 of 45 (73.3 percent) for 351 yards and four touchdowns last week. He has two straight games with at least 30 completions and four touchdown passes. Against the Bengals in the past three games, he has 918 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. … RB Le’Veon Bell leads the NFL with 981 rushing yards and 1,377 yards from scrimmage. Since entering the league in 2013, he has 38 games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, second most in the NFL. In six career meetings, he has 823 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns. … WR Antonio Brown leads the league with 80 catches and 1,195 yards. He had 10 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns last week. … DE Cameron Heyward had two sacks last week. He aims for his third straight with at least two sacks. … Bengals QB Andy Dalton passed for two touchdowns last week against the Browns. In his last three games, he has thrown for seven touchdowns and no interceptions. … RB Joe Mixon had a career-high 165 yards from scrimmage (114 rushing) and a rushing score last week. He has rushed for a touchdown in three of the past four games. … RB Giovani Bernard had 100 receiving yards and a touchdown when the teams met Sept. 18, 2016. He has five touchdowns in eight meetings against the Steelers. … WR A.J. Green has touchdowns in two of the past three games and has scored in two straight Monday night games. … TE Tyler Kroft scored last time against the Steelers and has scored in two straight games. … LB Vontaze Burfict has 44 tackles in four home games against the Steelers. … DE Carlos Dunlap has 1 1/2 sacks and an interception for a touchdown in the past two home games. … Rookie linebacker Carl Lawson had 1.5 sacks last week and leads rookies with seven.
PREDICTION: Ben Roethlisberger has too many weapons and is more reliable than Andy Dalton. Le’Veon Bell will control the game.