Despite Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leaving Thursday's practice after reportedly rolling his ankle, it appears everything is fine out of Pittsburgh. Because if he wasn't and mobility issues were further compounded, Roethlisberger would be facing an inconsistent pass rush that still generated 65 quarterback sacks dating back to 2011 -- tops in the AFC and four more than the second-ranked Houston Texans.
Additionally Cincinnati's defense has held their own against Pittsburgh's passing offense. Roethlisberger hasn't thrown for more than 300 yards in a game since Dec. 4, 2005. And of Roethlisberger's last six games against the Bengals, he's only thrown five touchdowns and thrown four picks. Granted there are some games that Pittsburgh shuts down their offense posting an insurmountable lead with a heavy dose of running.
But that hasn't been the problem.
The storyline of Cincinnati's 5-14 record during the Marvin Lewis tenure (including the 2005 playoff loss) isn't so much what Pittsburgh's offense does to Cincinnati. Rather it's how ineffective the Bengals offense has become.
Cincinnati heads into Sunday Night's game against Pittsburgh having gone 12 straight regular season games against the Steelers defense without a 300-yard performance of total offense. During ten of the past 18 meetings, the Bengals eclipsed 80 yards rushing as a team and the last quarterback to surpass 300 yards was Jon Kitna's 411-yard performance on December 30, 2001. That's 21 straight meetings without a 300-yard passer.
The Andy Dalton and A.J. Green era Bengals haven't fair much better... yet. In two games during his rookie season, Dalton completed less than half his throws for a combined 305 yards passing, three touchdowns and two interceptions. On the other hand two of those touchdowns were caught by A.J. Green, including a costly 36-yarder during their first meeting in which he hurt his knee and becoming a decoy for the rest of the game. During their second meeting Green posted six receptions for 87 yards receiving and a touchdown.
Pittsburgh currently ranks fifth in the league allowing only 200.8 yards passing per game. Yet opposing quarterbacks have generated a passer rating of 93.8, largely because Pittsburgh isn't generating interceptions this year. Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer posted a 103.7 passer rating in a comeback win over the Steelers in Week Three, generating three touchdowns and a completion rate of over 70 percent.
We're well aware that Cincinnati's running game is struggling. Yet they'll run the football because they need to keep to keep Dick LeBeau's defense honest. But it will be Cincinnati's passing game that wins it for the Bengals this weekend.