There is no room for a let down against the Bengals after the hard fought victory last week against the Ravens in Baltimore. A loss this week, could cost them a shot at the AFC North title as well as a good shot at the home field advantage. Playoffs? Why am I talking about playoffs? The Steelers should not be worried about anything but treating this as a must win divisional game and everything else will take care of itself. They have to remember that the Bengals swept them in 2009. This game has to be personal for them and they must play as such. Below are what we deem to be 7 keys to the game for the Steelers to beat the Bengals in week 14.
No TO Show Reruns - Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens had 10 catches for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns way back in week 9. Owens worked over nickel corner William Gay and left cornerback Bryant McFadden most of the game. The Steelers will need to improve the inside coverage on Owens and do a better job giving safety help over the top with Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. This may mean leaving Ike Taylor more on an island with Chad Ochocinco, but I think he can handle it.
Run At Will - The banged up Bengals defense has allowed an average of 4.6 yards per rushing play so far this year. Rashard Mendenhall ran for 99 yards on 22 carries back in week 9 and the Steelers will try to build on that, especially if the weather is bad. Center Maurkice Pouncey and guards Chris Kemoeatu and Ramon Foster should all have a much easier going this week in the trenches and should be able to manhandle the Bengals front.
Attack Johnathan Or Jonathan - Starting left corner Johnathan Joseph missed some practice this week after re-aggravating an ankle injury that has already caused him to miss three games this season. Joseph only worked limited on Friday and is a risk not to start on Sunday. He might be replaced by Jonathan Wade who was just signed by the Bengals off the street in late November. Regardless who is out there on Sunday at left corner, that is who quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will try to pick on. Mike Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders might each have a field day.
Dare Kitty To Run - Expect the Steelers to give quite a few 3 and 4 man looks up front and dare the Bengals to try to run on them. The Bengals are averaging just 3.69 yards per rushing play this season, while the Steelers are allowing just 2.95 yards per rushing play, the best in the NFL. With Brett Keisel healthy and Ziggy Hood starting to make more of a splash, the Steelers can likely handle the run game with the minimum and drop more into coverage.
Make Palmer Throw Irresistible Throws - The Steelers have been getting more pressure on the quarterback as of late and outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley need to tee off Sunday on Andrew Whitworth and Dennis Roland at the left and right tackle spots. Keisel and Hood have also been getting more push in the middle as of late and Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has shown he does not use great judgment when he is pressured as his 3.2% interception rate shows.
Field Position & Kicking Game - The Steelers now have a new punter in Jeremy Kapinos to go with fairly new place kicker Shaun Suisham. Kapinos will reportedly hold for Suisham as well. Any time changes like this happen, it is a reason for concern as this will be the first game Kapinos. He has cold weather experience punting for Green Bay for little over a season. He could really play a big role in this game with some well placed punts. Also the nice run for Suisham hopefully will continue and head coach Mike Tomlin must watch him close in warm-ups, especially in the open end of Heinz Field, an end that is tough to kick in on a clear Summer day. No need to put the young kid in a favorable position to fail when he can just punt it instead and let the defense do their job.
Sweep The Leg Early - Sunday is looking like a cold, snowy and blistery day in Pittsburgh and if the Steelers can put the Bengals down deep on the scoreboard early, it might take the will to fight back out of the team that has lost 9 straight. The Steelers have to remember that the Bengals swept them last year and know that now is the time to finish the revenge and blow them out in front of the Heinz Field faithful.
Steelers Bengals Game Prediction - If you played this game on paper, it would clearly favor the Steelers. These are not the same Bengals they beat in week 9. They have had several injuries this year and are not a deep team. Trap game? Are you kidding? Every game, every week in the NFL is a trap game. It is a phrase that should only be used in betting, not in straight up head to head talk. Regardless, this one should play out like it does on paper and the Steelers return the favor of the sweep they suffered last year to Cincinnati. Steelers win and cover. Bengals get a late TD to make it look closer than what the game really was.
Final Score: Steelers 24 Bengals 10