NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06: Lavelle Hawkins #87 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball and is tackled by Reggie Nelson #20, Brandon Johnson #59 and Leon Hall #29 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game at LP Field on November 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Combining the six quarters during Cincinnati's win over the Seattle Seahawks and the first half against the Tennessee Titans last week, the Cincinnati Bengals passing defense allowed 516 yards passing -- or roughly 86 yards/passing per quarter. During Cincinnati's other 26 quarters this season, the passing defense has only allowed 46.8 yards per quarter. It's understandable if the defense had a lull in their stalwart pass coverage. But that lapse in dominance could hurt the Bengals against the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend in what could be viewed as one of Cincinnati's biggest keys to the game.
Bengals cornerback Leon Hall said earlier this week that, "We just can’t give up big plays" to the league's eighth-best passing offense. Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace leads the league with six 40-yard receptions this year and as a team, the Steelers are ranked sixth with six passing plays of 40 yards or more and 35 plays of 20 yards. Only three teams are sporting a higher passing average than the Steelers.
Cornerback Nate Clements is excited about the matchup this weekend, taking on one of the league's biggest threats with the deep ball.
"We see it as an opportunity that 17, he's going to get the ball," Clements said. "Whoever is on him is definitely going to have a chance to make a play."
Wallace has posted at least 100 yards receiving during consecutive games against the Bengals, while receiver Antonio Brown has at least 100 yards receiving in two of his past three games this year. The last time the Bengals hosted the Steelers in Cincinnati, Mike Wallace posted a 39-yard touchdown reception during Pittsburgh's 27-21 win in early November 2010.
Our presumption to help defend against the pass isn't so much about Cincinnati's secondary, as it is the defensive line pass rush. And not just any pass rush. A pass rush that keeps Ben Roethlisberger on the ground because of his history giving the Bengals problems with the team's inability to wrap and secure the tackle.