On Monday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in a matchup of two AFC North rivals fighting for different playoff agendas. The Steelers are looking to keep pace with the Patriots for home field advantage in the AFC, while the Bengals are in the mix for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. The Steelers will try to hold off a Bengals team what has gone 5-3 after starting out 0-3.
Here is the analysis on the Steelers Week 13 opponent — the Cincinnati Bengals:
Ever since Bill Lazor replaced Ken Zampese early in the season, Andy Dalton has quietly played up to the levels that Bengals fans have desired. All of this despite injuries to Tyler Boyd, Tyler Eifert and John Ross. Ross, a 2017 first round pick, has also been ineffective so far in his rookie season. Dalton has a passer rating of 92.5 with 18 touchdown passes to eight interceptions, with only AJ Green as his only consistent outside threat.
One person who has stepped up on offense for the Bengals is TE Tyler Kroft. Kroft has been their best threat inside the red zone where he has scored five touchdowns, including one in their Week 7 matchup in Heinz Field. The Bengals offensive game plan is first to look for big plays from A.J. Green, and second is to stick with the running game with Joe Mixon who had seven carries for 48 yards in the first half in their last matchup, but did not get a carry in the second half.
Player to watch — RB Joe Mixon
Mixon had his best game as a pro last week with 23 carries for 114 yards. He has shown the ability to also catch the ball out of the backfield, with 26 catches averaging almost 10 yards a reception.
The Bengals are the top ranked red zone defense by holding their opponents to a 39.5% touchdown percentage. However they have allowed 146.2 rushing yards per game in the past six games, beginning with the Week 7 matchup. The Bengals did make a lineup change by inserting speedy rookie Jordan Evans out of Oklahoma to add electricity to their linebacking corps. Evans will be a key to neutralizing Le’Veon Bell, who has owned them in games that he has finished against Cincinnati in his career.
The Bengals game plan, whether Antonio Brown plays or not, will be to drop seven in coverage and rush with their front four. If Brown doesn’t play, then the emphasis will be on stopping Bell and bring an extra man in the box.
Player to watch — DE Carl Lawson
Lawson leads the team with seven sacks, including two last week against the Browns. Lawson plays outside linebacker in their base packages and plays end in their sub packages, which allows Paul Guenther to use players such as Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins to move around the line and find mismatches along the opponent’s offensive line.
The Steelers will use the running game to wear down the Bengals defense in the second half and the defense will force a late turnover on Dalton to salt the game away in a physical AFC North matchup. Steelers 21-17 over the Bengals.