Heading into the ninth week of the regular season, the Bengals defense ranked 19th or worse across the board in terms of major statistical categories, ranging from the 23rd ranked rush defense, the 20th ranked pass defense, to allowing opponents to convert 41% or their third down conversions, which ranks 24th in the NFL. And when the offense is going three-and-out, forcing the defense out on the field for nearly a 2-1 time of possession ratio, Cincinnati's defense is going to struggle.
And quite frankly, injuries still pose a problem on the Bengals defense. Whereas before it was the secondary, now it's the defensive line.
Jonathan Fanene, last year's second-best pass rusher, is already out. Even though Antwan Odom, who led the team with eight quarterback sacks in 2009, is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy, a knee injury suffered against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already had him in a knee brace and likely missing several weeks anyway. Frostee Rucker (knee) was limited during practice last week and listed as questionable while Tank Johnson (knee), also listed as questionable, missed all of last week's practices.
If neither Rucker or Johnson can go, then expect Michael Johnson and Pat Sims to get the start respectively.
On the linebacker front, weak-side outside linebacker Keith Rivers (foot) was limited during practice last week and could also miss tonight's game against the Steelers. Brandon Johnson would start in his place while rookie Roddrick Muckelroy (ankle) missed last week's practices.
The one good thing that came out of the infirmary tent from last week is that Johnathan Joseph, Roy Williams and Chinedum Ndukwe, all listed as probable, fully practiced last week and are expected to play.