After 15 brutal weeks a playoff spot likely comes down to this one game. If the Bengals win they are definitely in. If the Steelers win, it’d take a loss to the Browns and a Bengals win next week to keep them out. In other words, if the Steelers win, they are almost definitely in. The Bengals are playing great football but the Steelers haven’t adjusted to having Ben Roethlisberger under center again, or perhaps Big Ben hasn’t adjusted yet. Everything points to this game being a very close, fairly low scoring game.
The Steelers and Bengals met in week seven in Cincy and the Steelers came out on top in that very close game. The game was tied at halftime and tied at the end of the 3rd, but the Steelers put together an eight play, 57 yard drive capped off by a Chris Rainey touchdown to take the lead in the 4th quarter. Although the score was close, the Steelers really dominated the outing. For example, they racked up 431 yards while the Bengals only tallied 185. But do not be mistaken, this is not the same Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve lost 4 of their last 5 with the last 2 being with Big Ben at the helm.
Key Matchup: Cincinnati's running backs vs. Pittsburgh's rush defense. Whoever wins this battle will win this game. If the Steelers can shut down Ellis and make Dalton try to win the whole thing, the Bengals are in trouble. But if the Bengals can pound the rock and control the ball, the Steelers may be looking at their 3rd straight loss and essentially the end of their season. The Steelers have the best pass defense in the NFL and Andy Dalton isn’t going to be able to pick it apart. But Ellis has been running well this year, racking up over a thousand yards already. The game is going to be determined by this matchup.
Player to Watch: Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers need Big Ben. Since his injury he hasn’t really been himself. His statistics haven’t been horrible but he hasn’t extended plays and been exceptional on 3rd down like we’re used to. Big Ben is known for coming through in the clutch. Well, it’s now crunch time; lose and Pittsburgh’s season is over. Can Roethlisberger regain his old form?
My Prediction: Bengals 13 Steelers 24. I think the Bengals are going to struggle moving the ball against the best defense in the NFL. Ellis will get some yards but he is going to be hard pressed to take on those big linebackers 20 times on Sunday. Also, I think Big Ben gets some of his mojo back. He’s going to be effective on 3rd down and put together some long drives and tire out that Bengals defense. Recent history has told me that the Steelers have to win this game. Roethlisberger, that defense, and Mike Tomlin have just too good of a track record in games like this. The Steelers win and put themselves on the brink of the playoffs.