The Pittsburgh Steelers needed help to get into the 2015 NFL Playoffs but here they are. As they head into Cincinnati to face the hated Bengals, can they take advantage of their good fortune?
What: Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
Where: Paul Brown Stadium Cincinnati, OH
When: Saturday January 9th, 2016 815pm Eastern
Weather: Mid 40s with rain possible
Line: Steelers -2.5
TV: CBS Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines.
TV Coverage: National TV.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Rabble TV: SCB will be calling the game live and interacting with you the fans. Click here to listen and join in!
Key Injuries: PIT DeAngelo Williams (foot) Did Not Practice Thursday. CIN Andy Dalton (thumb) Did Not Practice Thursday
Final 2015 NFL Ranks : Bengals 15th total offense ( 13th Rushing/ 15th Passing)/ 11th total defense ( 7th Rushing/ 20th Passing)… Steelers 3rd total offense (16th Rushing/3rd Passing)/21st total defense (5th Rushing/30th Passing)
What You Need to Know: In eight previous playoff games in the wild-card round the Steelers are 4-4 and have lost their last three… Only one of those wins came on the road and it was in Cincinnati… The Steelers lead the NFL in postseason appearances since the 1970 merger with 28… This is the 11th time the Steelers have played a team for a third time and they are 9-1 in such games. Last year’s loss to Baltimore is the only blemish.
What’s at Stake: The winner advances to the AFC Divisional Round.
All-Time Series: Steelers lead 56-35 and are 26-19 all-time in Cincinnati. The Steelers have a 1-0 advantage in the playoffs.
Series Highs: Passing: CIN Jon Kitna 411 yards 2001, PIT Ben Roethlisberger 386 yards 2005 Rushing: CIN James Brooks 133 yards 1985, PIT Le’Veon Bell 185 yards 2014 Receiving: CIN A.J. Green 224 yards 2014, PIT Lynn Swann 192 yards 1979
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Win
Ben Needs to Be Ben, Good Ben That Is. There’s no hiding the fact that Roethlisberger has thrown too many picks over the last several games. No, not all were his fault but he did have some other throws that could have easily been intercepted. Knowing that the Bengals will do everything they can to limit deep balls, Big Ben has to be willing to take the underneath stuff because it’s going to be there. This could also play into his hands if the running game isn’t working because short throws become long handoffs. Bottom line? Take care of the football.
Make McCarron Beat You. Steelers’ Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler has displayed two very different defenses the last two weeks. The one in Baltimore needs to stay in Baltimore. Butler’s charges must confuse Bengals’ QB A.J. McCarron with movement prior to the snap and adjustments afterwards. Since McCarron made his first appearance against the Steelers he’s done a good job taking care of the ball. Common sense says he’ll focus on A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert and they’ll make plays but getting McCarron to throw late or sooner than he wants to is critical. There is of course an inherent danger to forcing McCarron to beat you; the Steelers already have shown they are pretty good at making bad QBs look good.
“Offensive” Offensive Line. With all signs pointing to DeAngelo Williams being out, the offensive line will likely see more pass blocking. Then again, maybe not. The Steelers will give Fitz Toussaint opportunities early to see what he can do and if he finds even a crack of success then that is a huge confidence boost to this O-Line. Either way, they must be aggressive. For guys like David DeCastro and Cody Wallace that usually isn’t a problem, but Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster and Alejandro Villanueva have to follow suit and attack the opposition. They can’t allow the Cincinnati defensive line to dictate what they do because if that happens then it will be a long day for them and Ben Roethlisberger.