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Bengals at Steelers: Breaking down film on 5 key Steelers

This week presents an historic chance for the Bengals to go 7-0 for the first time ever. However, Pittsburgh finally has its entire offense back in spite of some injuries in the line. Fans should expect a high scoring affair that could help seal the deal in the AFC North early on, if the Bengals win.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati faces a near must-win scenario this Sunday. They are not only facing their toughest rival in the division but their most hated enemy as well. Despite leading the AFC North at 6-0, a win for the Bengals would prove to everyone paying attention, the Cincinnati Bengals are for real. Though, if they lose, the worst case scenario is being 6-1, which is a record any of us would have welcomed before the season began.

After declaring the Seahawks game in Week 5 their hardest test yet, I believe this game beats it. The Steelers managed a 2-2 record after losing their quarterback to a sprained MCL and bruised tibia. They are now at 4-3 and aware that a win against the Bengals could make the division race much closer.

The Bengals will have to get past a team that has fought - and won some - incredibly tough battles against the Chargers and the Cardinals while losing to the Ravens and Chiefs without their quarterback. Pittsburgh is a missed field goal away from being 5-2, and despite their troubled defense they've only given up more than 23 points once, and that was to the mighty Patriots.

Can Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and the rest of the Bengals overcome their ghosts and beat the Steelers on the road? We've picked some Pittsburgh players who will be key in the outcome of the game.

1) Antonio Brown

We know that the Bengals have some issues at tackling and in the secondary. Dre Kirkpatrick and Reggie Nelson have been below average so far and got burned by Kansas City wide receiver Jeremy Maclin - and by Baltimore's Steve Smith Sr. - who is not as special as Antonio Brown but plays a little bit like him. Plus, he excels in the clutch, and also contributes on special teams. One of the truly great players in the NFL, Brown has only had four targets in the red zone this season, but that is going to change with Big Ben back. He can do whatever he wants on the field, and gets open at ease. Unfortunately he won't stick to Adam Jones' side for the entire game. Brown is very skilled but is also a fierce competitor.


I think Steve Smith Sr. is a great comparison because of their size and will to fight every single play. One-on-one he is very hard to cover. If Leon Hall is unable to go, Darqueze Dennard is going to be doing a lot of work.


2) Martavis Bryant

Brown not only gets his fair share of targets, but also opens up the field for Martavis Bryant, the second-year deep threat that punished the Bengals last season with four catches for 109 yards and a 94-yard touchdown. He then added some more stats in Week 17 as well. Pittsburgh now has everybody back: Big Ben, Brown, Le'Veon Bell, Bryant and Markus Wheaton, and the South Carolina native has 11 touchdowns in 35 career receptions, you do the math.

We've seen what Green can do for Marvin Jones, and Bryant benefits by the presence of Brown in the same way. He simply has too much speed not to.


3) Le'Veon Bell

He brought the wildcat back. For that he deserves my respect. Bell is a true superstar, maybe the best running back in football, and now has the passing game back to open running lanes for him. Not that he needed them, though.


He runs between tackles like only the best can do, and is also a polished receiver with great hands. In three career meetings against the Bengals Bell is averaging 147.3 yards from scrimmage with four total touchdowns.

4) Antwon Blake

The cornerback manning the right side is having a so-so season, mixing great plays like the pick six against San Diego with some obvious mistakes. The Steelers' defense is not as bad as advertised but not as good as the points allowed would suggest. Their secondary will have a tough task ahead with Green, Jones, Sanu and Eifert coming to town. The 5'9" player out of Texas-El Paso was especially concerning for Pittsburgh in their Week 7 clash in Kansas City.

The guys at Behind the Steel Curtain did a great film room piece on his shortcomings that you can read and watch here. Andy Dalton will have to take his chances against Blake if the Steelers play with only one high safety over the top.

5) Alejandro Villanueva

The big 6'9" offensive tackle made his first NFL start last Sunday and made history in doing so, becoming the first Spanish professional football player ever. In a unit that has lost OT Kelvin Beachum and two-time All-Pro C Maurkice Pouncey the former Army Ranger is a feel-good story. He had some trouble working in space against Tamba Hali, and he had some issues blocking for the running game, but Alejandro is huge and maybe working with Roethlisberger can get the best out of him. Cincy needs to attack him, even if played only slightly below average in Kansas City.



Cincinnati needs to get to Roethlisberger if they want to keep their other weapons at bay, and their front four will be crucial.