Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals are reeling as of late heading into their Week 7 clash on Sunday.
The Steelers (2-3) just lost to the Tennessee Titans while the Bengals (3-3) have dropped their last two contests to the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns.
Pittsburgh has lost all three of its away games this season, while taking two at home. Mike Tomlin's squad won't be playing in the comfy confines of Heinz Field this time around, either, so the Steelers better show up.
Here's a look at Sunday's AFC North battle in Cincinnati.
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
When: Sunday, Oct. 21 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Steelers -1.5, Over/Under 46 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
What's At Stake?
With both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh trailing the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North, this is a big matchup to get back in the thick of things.
The Ravens have a 5-1 record, but they just lost Ray Lewis and star cornerback Lardarius Webb for the season, so this division is going to be interesting to watch moving forward.
This will be the first of two meetings between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh this season.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
RB Rashard Mendenhall - Achilles - Questionable
C Maurkice Pouncey - Leg - Questionable
LB Chris Carter - Hamstring - Questionable
RB Isaac Redman - Knee - Questionable
LB LaMarr Woodley - Hamstring - Questionable
OT Marcus Gilbert - Ankle - Doubtful
S Troy Polamalu - Calf - OUT
G David DeCastro - Knee - OUT until at least early December
RB Brian Leonard - Ribs - Questionable
DB Jason Allen - Thigh - Questionable
CB Dre Kirkpatrick - Knee - Questionable
What They're Saying
The Steelers certainly sense the urgency in winning this game. They already trail the Ravens by 2.5 games in the AFC North.
Linebacker Larry Foote was adamant that this was a must-win game for the Steelers.
Foote said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
I’ve been there in December, praying for four teams to lose, and we don’t want to be in that. We still control our destiny. ... It’s a divisional opponent, and we’ve got to get this win, whatever it takes.
The good news for the Steelers is that they've won 10 of their last 11 games in Cincinnati.
As for the Bengals, they are trying to establish an identity. They've been inconsistent overall, from the running game to the passing game to the defense.
As Anthony Cosenza of Cincy Jungle mentions, "They seem to do a number of different things adequately, but there's very little that they truly excel at."
The Bengals are running out of time to establish an identity. This week against the Steelers would be a great place to start.
Steelers Player to Watch: Ben Roethlisberger, QB
With the Pittsburgh running game at a standstill (3.0 yards per carry, worst in the NFL), I expect Ben Roethlisberger to try to expose the Cincinnati pass defense.
The Bengals are allowing 7.9 yards per pass attempt this season (25th in the NFL) and have only recorded two interceptions in six games.
Roethlisberger just passed for 363 yards against the Titans while averaging a season-high 9.1 yards per attempt, but he threw a costly interception that allowed Tennessee to kick a field goal to end the first half. The Titans ended up winning that game, 26-23.
Bengals Player to Watch: Andy Dalton, QB
Like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati doesn't have much of a running game. Signing BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the offseason was supposed to be a big move for the Bengals, but they've only averaged 3.9 yards per carry this season with just three rushing touchdowns.
In that sense, look for Andy Dalton to look A.J. Green's way early and often to try to expose an aging Pittsburgh defense that is not what it once was.
Dalton threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns against the Browns last week, but he also tossed three interceptions.
Key Matchup: Steelers' Passing Attack vs. Bengals' Pass Defense
The Steelers are lucky to have a quarterback of Ben Roethlisberger's caliber because they may not even be 2-3 if it wasn't for him.
The ground game has slowed to a halt and it has led to Roethlisberger throwing the pigskin 39.6 times per game, fifth-most in the NFL.
Roethlisberger has the ability to break down this Cincinnati pass defense. He just needs to execute.
Who will win?
Prediction: Steelers 24, Bengals 20
I see Pittsburgh breaking out of its slump on the road and notching another victory in Cincinnati, with the primary reason being that Ben Roethlisberger is a better and more experienced quarterback than Andy Dalton.
With lackluster running games, whoever wins the battle through the air wins this clash.