When Cincinnati played Pittsburgh earlier this year, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed 21 of 29 passes for 302 yards passing with two scores and zero interceptions. Awesome game. The only problem is that the 128.8 passer rating that he generated on Dec. 7 -- currently the fifth-highest rating of his 66-game NFL career -- happened during a 21-point loss. And of those attempts and completions, a significant majority went to A.J. Green -- including 74.2 percent of Dalton's passing yards -- someone who might not even play this Sunday.
One of the highlights in that game was a double-post by with ten seconds remaining in the third quarter. Mohamed Sanu, in the slot, and A.J. Green, each ran a variation of the post. Free safety Mike Mitchell followed Sanu, leaving Ike Taylor in single-coverage against the four-time pro bowl wide receiver.
The 81-yard touchdown reclaimed a 21-17 lead for Cincinnati as the game entered the fourth quarter. Mitchell expects to see the same play this weekend. "Absolutely, we're going to see it," Mitchell said via Steelers.com. "You won't see it completed, though. I'm going to be deep."
That said, Mitchell is looking forward to the rematch.
"I am really looking forward to it," Mitchell said via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "You learn from your mistakes, and that's what is awesome about divisional games compared to non-divisional games. You only get one shot at those guys, so if they do something on you, then you might have to wait one or two years to play them again."
"No. 18 is a heck of a player," Mitchell said. "We have to stay on top of 18. If you can take care of his big-play ability, you can slow them down."
True but since the last time that Cincinnati played Pittsburgh, they've developed greater confidence in their running game.
Let's take a quick sidestep for a small comparison.
If Jay Gruden were managing this offense, he'd convince himself that the defense would eventually find a way to defend something, so he'd change things up (even if the original gameplan was working). Why not stay one step ahead of them? In most cases, it was a ridiculous case of outthinking yourself against something that was working.
Current offensive coordinator Hue Jackson tends to obsessively stick with whatever is working at the time, narcissistically demanding that the opposition beats them before looking at applying adjustments. It's why the Bengals are consistent with their running game, along with the application of using their Power-O variation.
Each philosophy has its uses.
Provided Cincinnati isn't facing an early deficit on Sunday, the Bengals will rely heavily with the running game this Sunday. You don't need experience or a certificate of completion from Scouting School 101 to figure this one out. Along with Jeremy Hill playing as the primary back and Giovani Bernard doing the auxiliary thing, the Bengals are limited in the passing game... especially now with A.J. Green dealing with a bruised biceps [Jackson will stay on the ground while Gruden would have said, "they'll never expect 40 passes in the first quarter!"]
"Obviously, No. 32 (Hill) has been toting that thing very well for them the last two games, so the No. 1 focus for us will be smashing the run and turning it back and then making them a passing team," said Mitchell.