If there ever was a must game for the Steelers it is this weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals. After losing 27-24 in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys, they’ve not only dropped to third place in the AFC North, but run the risk of falling under .500 for the first time during the Mike Tomlin reign.
|SACKED—Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) is sacked by Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher (97) during the second half Sunday, Dec. 16, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
As the Baltimore Ravens, 9-5 and Steelers 7-7 continue to free-fall the Bengals are playing very solid football barely losing to the Cowboys two weeks ago 20-19, then destroying the Philadelphia Eagles to lift their record to 8-6, one game behind the slumping Ravens and one game ahead of the Steelers. If the Ravens continue to tumble and the Bengals beat the Steelers they could pull into a tie with the Ravens. As bad as the Steelers have been playing they can still win a wild card berth if they beat the Bengals and the Cleveland Browns to finish 9-7.
The Bengals smashed Eagles 34-13 last Thursday night to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Quarterback Andy Dalton is gradually emerging as one of the better quarterbacks in the league as he found a way to win last season and this season. Last season he led the Bengals to their first playoff berth and winning record, 10-6 in years, and it appears he will do the same this year unless they fall apart against the Steelers and Ravens in their last two games. Just how good he is will be decided in the next two games against the two teams that have owned the AFC North the past two decades. If the Bengals can beat the Steelers and Ravens they will finish 10-6 again and would have earned a playoff berth and the division title.
Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis has established himself as one of the top backs in the game. He comes into the Steelers game having rushed for 1080 yards, with a 4.1 average. A. J. Green and Jermaine Gresham are the top receivers. Green has 85 receptions for 1208 yards and Gresham 61 receptions for 699 yards. Ike Taylor held Green to just one reception in their earlier meeting, but Taylor may not be able to play in this game, and even if he does, the possibility of him holding him to just one reception again is very unlikely.
In the Eagle game Green-Ellis picked up 106 yards on 25 carries on the ground while Green and Gresham picked up 57 and 63 yards on 6 catches each through the air.
Overall the Bengals have been consistent on offense and defense ranking 9th in points scored and 10th in points allowed.
The Steelers played one of their better games offensively and defensively against the Cowboys, but once again mistakes, fumbles, interceptions and bad decisions, especially by Antonio Brown, led to their defeat.
In the AFC North. the Ravens have clinched a playoff berth and if they win out they win the division. If the Bengals win out they win the division, however if the Steelers win out they will make the playoffs because they would have beaten the Bengals twice. But if they lose to the Bengals they are out.
No matter what happens, the Steelers will finish with the worst record ever under Tomlin. They will either be 9-7, 8-8, or 7-9.