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Week 14 Bengals Mailbag: Injuries, handling the Steelers' defense and GOATs

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We answer some of the burning questions from our readers this week as the Bengals get set to battle the Steelers. Send us your questions every week to be answered in this feature!

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Every week we receive a number of reader questions through various platforms and sift through them to answer the best of the week. If you have a question, get in touch with us to have your questions featured on this weekly post!

Our first question this week is about a familiar topic during "Steelers Week". Obviously, these games are always physical, with Pittsburgh asserting their might more often than not against the Bengals in the Marvin Lewis era.

We discussed this topic a bit on Wednesday's Inside The Jungle episode, as well as on Thursday regarding some of the comments made by both teams in recent days . There is little doubt both teams want to win Sunday's game badly and they will attempt to secure a win with physical play.

Pittsburgh reserve linebacker, Vince Williams, fired the first verbal shot immediately following the Bengals' 16-10 win at Heinz Field in Week 8. Williams took exception to Vontaze Burfict's perceived celebration after a tackle that tore a knee ligament in Le'Veon Bell's leg, and took to Twitter to say he'd seek Burfict out on the street and "paint" him. Williams may have gotten the idea from his current linebackers coach, Joey Porter, who actually followed through with the same kind of threat against Bengals offensive tackle Levi Jones years back.

Pittsburgh offensive lineman David DeCastro added to the fray this week noting his displeasure with the Bengals, stating flat out, "We don't like them". Cincinnati cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick made a "village idiot" comment, but that was more of a broad response to all of the jabs poked towards the Bengals.

You have to hope the things Steelers players have put out in the media are a last-ditch desperate ploy to get the Bengals thinking twice about things, even though they have a three-game lead in the AFC North with four games to play. Maybe it's a way to psyche themselves up to put it to a team that has had a tendency to crawl into its shell when facing a good team or when things go bad in a game. The Steelers have often been the ones inflicting these issues on the Bengals over so many years.

With Bell suffering two knee injuries in the past two games these teams have played, A.J. Green getting a concussion at the end of 2014, Kevin Huber getting his jaw broken in 2013 and so many other prominent injuries over the course of this rivalry, it's easy to feel like another one could be coming on Sunday. The truth is, I think this is more talk than anything and hopefully the referees will be clamping down on anything extracurricular.

That's an unknown at this point. Cincinnati's offensive line has bounced back nicely from poor performances in three of four weeks against Pittsburgh, Houston and Arizona, restoring faith that they are truly one of the top units in the NFL. They were impeccable against a formidable pass rush the St. Louis Rams' defensive line has supplied most everyone else this year, and they pounded the football against the beleaguered Cleveland Browns.

They allowed just one sack the past two weeks, while giving up 10 in the three aforementioned contests against the Steelers (3), Texans (3) and Cardinals (4). It's no coincidence Cincinnati went just 1-2 in those games and could run the ball with much consistency. While the Bengals will want to wing the ball around the yard against a weak Steelers secondary on Sunday, securing balance on offense has to be a priority.

Making up for the weak secondary is the stout front seven of the Pittsburgh defense. While they haven't fully recovered from Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor retiring, they have rejuvenated their front with young talent after aging hit that area of the unit as well. Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree are quality linebackers, while Cameron Heyward and and Stephon Tuitt are emerging as quality players.

Regardless of the personnel or the coordinator, the Steelers have a knack of tricking and frustrating offenses with their ability to push the pocket. It's likely a combination of their 3-4 scheme, versatility of their players and collective football I.Q. that lends to them always getting under the skin of any offensive coordinator.

In terms of offensive line play, they're still healthy and seem to be hitting a groove, especially with the further utilization of Ryan Hewitt in the run game. If the Bengals are to be successful, it's going to rest on the very big shoulders of their interior offensive linemen.

Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling have been relatively steady with a couple of spurts of protection issues, while Russell Bodine has bore the brunt of fan ire, warranted or not. At any rate, these three will need to deal with the Steelers' strength up front as well as those funky blitzes they like to bring. Can they hold up? Sure. Will they? I don't know--Pittsburgh has always seemed to find a way to get pressure on the Bengals. It might also come down to conceding they'll get pressure and making plays while under it.

I'm nearly positive this isn't a wholly serious question, but we'll address it anyway. For those who might not be residing in the Gen X or Millennial age groups, "GOAT" is an acronym for "Greatest Of All Time".

Whether Scott is asking if Dalton is the GOAT of the NFL or just the GOAT of the Bengals, the answer is no. Now, that isn't to say Dalton hasn't done some spectacular things in his five-year career, because he has. All Dalton knows is getting to the postseason, winning in the regular season and he has some pretty solid stats. After having his best season as a pro in 2015, he's made the leap from being a middle-tier quarterback, to recently being named in the top of the league by one of his major critics. He also leads the NFL in passer rating.

The good news is, Dalton has a solid chance at being a GOAT for the Bengals, which is saying a lot with quarterbacks like Boomer Esiason and Ken Anderson in the annals of team history. As it is, Dalton ranks fourth in most of the team's major passing categories historically, in far less time than his predecessors had spent with the club. If he sees this current contract through, remains healthy and continues to stay productive, we could be witnessing the greatest quarterback in team history, at least statistically-speaking. Think about that after all of the criticism he's taken since 2011.

But, if he is truly going to usurp Anderson and Esiason, as well as insert himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, it's going to take some solid work in January. This team and its quarterback, especially as it is currently comprised, can't continue to stumble in the playoffs. While certain people might not lose their jobs here, the criticisms would only grow louder.

If they don't make noise in the postseason, when will they? This Cincinnati team set a franchise record with an 8-0 start, Dalton is playing great football and the team seems to be a near-consensus choice as the most talented roster in the NFL. It's almost a now or never scenario, isn't it?