Sunday, December 23, 2012
Good morning from Pittsburgh
By Jamison Hensley
PITTSBURGH -- It was certainly a no-brainer when it came to selecting what game to cover this weekend. Sunday's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers is more than a division game. It's about the battle for the last playoff spot in the AFC.
When the Bengals play at the Steelers, both teams control their playoff fate. The Bengals can clinch a postseason berth with a victory today. The Steelers can earn a playoff spot by winning their last two games.
Here are three factors to watch:
1. Steelers run defense. Thanks to the resurgence of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Bengals have rushed for at least 125 yards in five straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Steelers have allowed at least 125 rushing yards an NFL-low one time this season.
2. Dalton against Pittsburgh's blitzes. The Steelers have allowed opponents to complete 69.7 percent of their attempts against five or more pass rushers in the last two games with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Steelers had a 51.9 completion percentage on such rushes prior, and hadn’t allowed a touchdown since Week 8. Andy Dalton went 2-of-6 for 22 yards in Week 7 against the Steelers’ blitzes.
3. The kicking game. The Steelers' Shaun Suisham is having a career year, converting 26 of 27 field-goal attempts (96.3 percent). The Bengals' Mike Nugent (right calf) is questionable and has missed the past two games. Josh Brown, who has filled in for Nugent, has made all six of his field-goal attempts but he missed both of his tries at Heinz Field last season when he was with the Rams.