While it technically should not be called a must win game for the Steelers, it is one they can not afford to lose. The Bengals are currently 4-0 in the division and a Steelers loss will mean the Bengals will need 2 more losses than the Steelers the rest of the way.
Both teams bring in great run defenses, while the Steelers have the better total defense that has been recharged in the recent weeks by the return of strong safety Troy Polamalu. Defensive end Travis Kirschke will miss another game this week as he recovers from a torn calf, but the Steelers will get back linebacker Lawrence Timmons who re-injured his ankle against the Vikings in week 7.
The Steelers will look to shut down running back Cedric Benson who is second in the league in rushing. Benson managed just 76 yards in the last meeting with 23 of it coming on one 4th quarter touchdown run. In the passing game, cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay look to keep both Chad Ochocinco and Laveranues Coles bottled up underneath. In the first meeting, both Bengals receivers combined for 10 catches and 88 yards. Nate Livings will get the start for the injured Evan Mathis at left guard and that will be the focal point of the Steelers defense.
On offense, the Steelers will look to attack the vulnerable Bengals pass defense to force the safeties away from the line of scrimmage so they can attack the inside running lanes with Rashard Mendenhall. The Bengals defense will likely be without Keith Rivers at the outside linebacker spot, so Brandon Johnson will also be the target of the Steelers offense through both the air and on the ground.
If not for a few Steelers mistakes, they would have won the week 3 game in Cincinnati. The Bengals are an improved team, but with Polamalu back and the offense clicking on all cylinders, this should be a very winnable game for the Black and Gold.
Prediction: Steelers 27 Bengals 13