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Old 12-04-2011, 07:54 AM   #1
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Default Matchups to watch: Steelers vs. Bengals

Matchups to watch: Steelers vs. Bengals
Sunday, December 04, 2011
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When the Bengals have the ball: The Bengals have turned the ball over only 14 times, tied for fewest in the AFC, but rookie QB Andy Dalton has thrown five INTs in the past nine quarters after throwing just seven in the first eight games. The Steelers had two fourth-quarter INTs in the first meeting. Dalton has 16 TD passes, most by a rookie in team history. RB Cedric Benson leads the team with 740 yards. Despite wanting to rely more on the run, most of the Bengals' production has been through the air. Rookie WR A.J. Green is almost a shoo-in for rookie of the year with 44 catches, 745 yards and six TDs. But Dalton also spreads the ball to three other players: TE Jermaine Gresham (37 catches, 370 yards, 5 TDs), WR Jerome Simpson (36 catches) and WR Andre Caldwell (35). The Steelers have allowed an NFL-low one completion of 40 yards or longer and 24 passes of 20 yards or longer, second fewest in the league.

When the Steelers have the ball: The Bengals use eight defensive linemen, depending on run and pass situations, and the rotation has worked well. They are fifth in the league in rush defense (92.7 ypg) and they generate pressure on the quarterback with their down linemen. Of their 28 sacks, 231/2 have come from their defensive linemen. The most disruptive is DT Geno Atkins (6 sacks). DE Carlos Dunlap, who did not play in the first meeting, will again not play because of a hamstring injury. He will be replaced in pass-rush situations by DEs Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers. The Bengals lost their best CB, Leon Hall, to a season-ending Achilles injury in the second quarter vs. the Steelers, and they could be without their other starting CB Nate Clements (hamstring). That has forced CB Adam "Pac Man" Jones into the starting lineup. S Reggie Nelson has been good against the run. But he and SS Chris Crocker have been susceptible to big pass plays. They will be tested against QB Ben Roethlisberger.

WR Andrew Hawkins ... A rookie free agent who played two seasons in the Canadian Football League, he was the Bengals' leading receiver in the first meeting (five catches, 56 yards) and has developed into a reliable third-down receiver. Hawkins, who has 16 catches for 186 yards, is a Johnstown native and the younger brother of former Bengals CB Artrell Hawkins.

The Steelers won the first meeting three weeks ago in Cincinnati, 24-17, a game in which they held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. That ended a five-game winning streak by the Bengals. The Bengals are 5-13, including postseason, against the Steelers under coach Marvin Lewis, but four of those victories are at Heinz Field. ... The Bengals are 4-2 on the road, tied for second-best in the AFC. They are coming off a 23-20 comeback victory against the Browns, which ended a two-game losing streak. They have come back from 10 points down in the second half to win three times this season, tying an NFL record.

To win, the Bengals must ...

1 Keep Green clean. The Steelers were fortunate A.J. Green missed half the game after injuring his knee on a 36-yard TD catch in the first meeting.

2 Apply a full Nelson. The free safety will be responsible for deep help on WR Mike Wallace, who doesn't have a catch longer than 25 yards in the past four games.

3 Not hedge on Benson. He had 57 yards rushing on 15 carries in the first meeting and needs to be more of a factor to take the pressure off his rookie QB.

To win, the Steelers must ...

1 Gang up on Dalton. The return of OLB LaMarr Woodley should help the pressure on the QB, which has produced just one sack the past two games.

2 Gird on third. Despite their third-down conversion woes in K.C. (3 of 11), they are first in the AFC and second in the NFL on third down, converting 48.9 percent.

3 Take 'em, don't make 'em. The Steelers have six takeaways in the past five quarters after having only four in the first 39 quarters.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11338...#ixzz1fZeGo79q
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