The Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Cincinnati Bengals in their second meeting of the season on Sunday and this time around there is a lot more at stake. While the Steelers are a full game ahead of the Bengals in the standings a loss on Sunday would change the entire complexion of the AFC North going forward. The Bengals have not let up after dropping games to both the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens as they have a 7-4 record to this point.
Bengal Pass Rush - In the first meeting of the season back in week 10 the Steelers were able to win 24-17 at Paul Brown Stadium, but the win didn't come easy in the least. The Bengals put up a heck of a fight and harassed Ben Roethlisberger all day long sacking him five times and knocking him to the ground 13 times. This is an area that the Steelers must be firmly aware of as they cannot let Roethlisberger get forced into making mistakes as he did the first time around.
AJ Green and Andy Dalton - These two rookies have made Bengals fans happy again and they will give the Steelers a tough challenge on Sunday. Despite only throwing for 175 yards in week 10 against the Steelers, he tossed two big touchdown passes and kept the Bengals in the game. Green was effective before he got hurt in the first meeting, but now that he's back he must be contained.
Bengal Defense - The Bengal defense is still in the top five and much of the credit needs to be handed to Marvin Lewis, as he has been able to build up this team despite losing marquee names in the last few years. Lewis currently has his finest defense since he began in Cincinnati as they are excelling many areas like stuffing the run. The Bengals also kept the Steelers to five of 12 on third down on third down deficiency in the first game. Now the Steelers must overcome what this tenacious defense will throw at them. That defense is also very good at forcing turnovers, which means the Steelers must protect the football better than they did against the Kansas City Chiefs a week ago.
Cedrick Benson - Although he did minimal damage in the first encounter, Benson is always a threat with his size and ability to break tackles. The Steelers seemed to have fixed their leaky run defense since the beginning of the year, but that all can change if the defense doesn't wrap this guy up.
Containing Gresham - The Steelers always seem to have issues hanging with agile tight ends and John Gresham should be no exception to that rule. In the first game he caught four passes for 23 yards and a touchdown. With Troy Polamalu playing at less than 100% look for the Bengals to use him to move the ball on the Steelers defense.
There are many other areas where the Bengals can beat a team, which means the Steelers must not underestimate this feisty bunch that won't go away. If the Steelers can't handle some of these items the AFC North might get a lot tighter before its all said and done.
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