By: Zach Metkler, GZ Sports Report Writer
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Entering Week 15, the Steelers have finally grasped sole possession of 1st place in the AFC North. With three weeks left in the season, the Steelers have a gauntlet of divisional matchups that will ultimately decide the winner of the AFC North. So what do you need to know as the Steelers travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals?
AFC North Rankings
- Steelers (8-5, 2-1)
- Ravens (7-6, 4-0)
- Bengals (5-7-1, 2-2)
- Browns (0-13, 0-5)
Steelers Keys to Victory
- Ben Roethlisberger Needs to Break His Away Game Woes. With the exception of the game against the Colts and Redskins, Big Ben has struggled in away games. In the Steelers seven games on the road, Roethlisberger has averaged just 231.1 yards per game and has 8 touchdowns but has also thrown 8 interceptions. In short, Roethlisberger needs to take better care of the football to help take the pressure off of the run game. The Bengals enter the Week 15 matchup with the 21st ranked pass coverage in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. If Ben can get things going through the air, the Steelers have the potential to put up big numbers, especially on the ground, as the Bengals rank 25th against the run.
- The Pass Rush Needs to Keep Bringing the Heat. This season, the Steelers have 31 team sacks. But 18 of those sacks have came in the past four games, which is the highest total in the NFL over that span. It is also no coincidence that the Steelers have been on a four-game winning streak over that time. The Bengals, on the other hand, have allowed 36 sacks this season, which is tied for the 5th worst total in the NFL. The Steelers need to have their pass rush in full strength again to keep the pressure on Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense.
- Unnecessary Penalties Must Be Avoided. It is no secret to anyone who watches football: there is bad blood between the Bengals and the Steelers. This bad blood has led to many scuffles on the field and plenty of big-yardage penalties. The Steelers need to take advantage of solid field position and not give it up themselves. This means keeping a level head on the field and not letting the nonsense take over.
Stats to Know for the Game
- Ben Roethlisberger had 259 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in the Week 2 matchup with the Bengals. However, he has eight passing TDs and four interceptions in the past five games.
- Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has 5 passing touchdowns and no interceptions in the past three games. His 3,555 passing yards are the 3rd most in the AFC and 7th most in the league this season.
- Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has 4 touchdown receptions in the past three games and leads NFL tight ends with 18 TD catches since 2015.
- Just in case you forgot, Le’Veon Bell is good. Scary good. Last week, he rushed for a team-record 236 yards with 3 touchdowns and added 62 receiving yards. He’s one of just two players in NFL history (Jim Brown, 1965) with 225 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, and 50 receiving yards in a game. He also leads the league with 161.6 scrimmage yards per game. On the season, Bell is 4th in rushing yards (1,053), 6th in yards per carry (4.8), 2nd in rushing yards per game (105.3), and is 2nd among all running backs in receptions (67). Did I mention that he missed the first three games of the season? Yeah. Bell is in for a big payday soon.
- The Steelers rank 2nd in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing less than 50% of red zone trips to end in a touchdown.
- The Bengals have scored 51 points in the 4th quarter of games this year. That’s on pace for 63 points in the final quarter on the season. The Bengals have only scored less than 93 points in the fourth quarter in a season twice under Marvin Lewis (2008, 41 and 2009, 74). Additionally, the Bengals have score just 4 total touchdowns in the 4th quarter of games this year, which is tied with the Bears for lowest number in the league. As a comparison, Oakland leads the NFL with 16 touchdowns.
While this game isn’t necessarily a “must-win” for the Steelers, a win would go a long way in keeping their distance atop of the AFC North and would mean that a win in both Week 15 and 16 would give the Steelers the division crown. The Steelers know what’s at stake and that the Bengals are going to come out swinging as a desperate team.
Steelers 27, Bengals 23
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