Make no mistake, the Steelers need to win this game much more than the Bengals. They will rattle off many excuses why they are in the position to look up at the Bengals, but they know this game could be their season. Add to that the hatred built when Le'Veon Bell was lost for the season and their claim that Vontaze Burfict celebrated it. There is hatred and a need from the Steelers to win this game. But, the Bengals want to win this game in the worst way possible. How do you step out from the shadow of a decorated team like the Steelers? Punch them in the mouth. So how can the Bengals win? Here are our five keys to victory for the Bengals.
As good as the Steelers think their offense is, the Bengals also have one of the premiere offenses in the league. This game could become a shootout. If that happens, the Bengals need to keep pace with the Steelers. In the past, these matchups have seen momentum be a factor in the outcome. If the Bengals fall behind, you could see some doubt creep into the minds of players on the team. Now, this is a different team than past Bengals teams, but against the Steelers, there can be no doubt. If the Bengals score when the opportunity presents itself, this game will belong to Cincy.
Run the ball
This isn't one of those times where you need to dictate pace; the Bengals need to run the ball so that their offense doesn't become one dimensional. Having some success in the running game buys Andy Dalton time in the pocket. The secondary needs to think about covering the run and with that, the Bengals can get some matchups working well in their passing attack.
Keep Andy Dalton clean
Don't rattle the Red Rifle. We have seen Andy Dalton step up and deliver in the clutch this season. After all, he is playing at a Pro Bowl level. The last thing anyone wants is to see him take a bunch of hits from a hungry Steelers defense. Pittsburgh is going to send the house at Andy to try an disrupt his rhythm. The Bengals' offensive line needs to do a better job in this game than they did in the first matchup.
Secondary needs to cover
The last two points go hand in hand. The Steelers' passing offense is one of the best in the NFL. If given time, there is no chance the Bengals' secondary can cover every Steelers weapon. Ideally the routes will be rushed and passes forced, which would give players like Reggie Nelson the opportunity to pick off Ben Roethlisberger.
Disrupt on defense
Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, we are looking in your direction. Pressure Roethlisberger, destroy the Pittsburgh line and don't allow the offense to find any rhythm. The more pressure the Bengals front can provide, the less the Bengals' secondary has to cover. The last two points are the major key to victory for this game, especially given the injuries to the secondary. The Bengals should not allow give the Steelers any opportunity to be comfortable.
What are your thoughts on the keys to the game? Leave them in the comments and we will come back and revisit next week while we celebrate the Bengals' 11th win.