The last time the Bengals and the Steelers played, which was just four weeks ago, the Bengals defense sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times. On top of that, he was hit six times and pressured five times. Robert Geathers had 1.5 sacks in that game, Manny Lawson had .5, Domata Peko and Michael Johnson each had half a sack and Geno Atkins had one.
Despite being pressured throughout the majority of the game, Roethlisberger still managed to complete 21 of 33 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception (to Leon Hall) and finished the day with a quarterback rating of 83.5.
It wasn't Roethlisberger that hurt the Bengals in Week 10, it was the two touchdowns from Rashard Mendenhall and the fact that the Steelers scored twice before the Bengals ever got a single first down that hurt them the most.
The Bengals biggest weakness heading into their Week 13 matchup with the Steelers is by far their secondary. The Steelers have moved away from being a power run offense to a passing offense this year and they likely know that the best way to put up quite a few points on the board is by exploiting the Bengals' secondary.
In order to stop the Steelers from moving the ball down the field through the air with ease, not only will cornerbacks Nate Clements, Kelly Jennings and Adam Jones and safeties Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson have to play well but the defensive line will need to constantly pressure Roethlisberger.
If the Bengals defensive line and linebackers can match or even outdo their last performance against Roethlisberger, they can give the offense the chance to win the game.
The Steelers have the eighth-ranked passing offense in the league. They're averaging 264.9 yards per game. Roethlisberger has thrown 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and he averages a quarterback rating of 92.7.
The Bengals have the 11th-ranked pass defense in the league. They have allowed an average of 215 passing yards per game and have given up 13 touchdowns while interception six passes. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged a quarterback rating of 83.3 against them.
One of the major reasons their defense is ranked in the top-15 in pass defense is because of their defensive line, though. Geno Atkins has more sacks than any other defensive tackle in the league with 6.5. Carlos Dunlap, despite the fact that he's been injured lately, is still considered the best 4-3 defensive end in the league by ProFootballFocus.com. Michael Johnson doesn't have the same numbers but he has the potential and he's athletic enough to put any offensive tackle on their heals. Then you have guys like Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker who are as versatile as they are talented and can rush the passer from many different positions.
If Mike Zimmer can dial up some blitz packages and keep Roethlisberger on his toes throughout the game, and if Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense decide to show up and play in the first half as well as the second, this game can be won.
The Bengals aren't going to be able to outscore the Steelers if Roethlisberger is able to pass all over the Bengals secondary. To stop that from happening, the Bengals front seven will need to find a way to get to the quarterback. If they can do that, the Bengals can win.