Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 16 Battle of Weaknesses

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIDecember 17, 2012

Andy Dalton found himself under constant pressure against the Eagles on Thursday night.
Andy Dalton found himself under constant pressure against the Eagles on Thursday night.Al Bello/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been deadlocked for the third quarter of the season. Only one team will make the playoffs, and Week 16 will be the deciding game.

Currently, the Bengals sit at 8-6 while the Steelers hold a 7-7 record. The Steelers currently own the tiebreaker over the Bengals after a 24-17 Week 7 win in Cincinnati.

This Week 16 matchup will not feature each team's strengths to decide the game. The deciding factor here will be the squad that can overcome their weakness in this contest.

So what are the weaknesses of these teams, and how do they correlate with each other?

The matchup that is being referred to here would be the Bengals pass offense against the Steelers pass defense.

Both teams have been struggling in this department of late. Much of their struggles have been for the same reasons.

Cincinnati thought it had its complementary wide receiver to A.J. Green in rookie Mohamed Sanu. Unfortunately, Sanu was lost for the season, and the rest of the receiving corps has yet to step up for the Bengals.

On the flip side, Pittsburgh has been battling secondary issues recently.

The Steelers have been without their top corners of late in Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen. Last week, they activated DeMarcus Van Dyke, but he suffered a shoulder injury very early in the game. To add insult to injury (no pun intended), Pittsburgh lost cornerback Keenan Lewis later in the game as well.

This left the Steelers with inexperienced Josh Victorian and previously demoted Curtis Brown to fill the void at the position. Pittsburgh was so depleted that it was forced to start undrafted rookie safety Robert Golden in the slot.

Pittsburgh started the season strong when healthy in the secondary, but lately it has not been pretty for the Steelers.

This past week, Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys completed 30 of 42 passes for 341 yards for a 71.4 completion percentage along with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 111.3.

If the Steelers remain decimated in the secondary, Cincinnati could certainly take advantage of this misfortune with their own aerial attack.

However, the Bengals have not had much of an aerial attack of their own recently.

Quarterback Andy Dalton has struggled of late and has not eclipsed more than 230 yards passing in his last six contests.

Most recently, Dalton threw for only 127 yards while completing 13 passes on 27 attempts for one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 74.2 against a porous Philadelphia Eagles secondary.

Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has this to say about Dalton's performance against Philadelphia:

"It was very un-Andy-like last night. He missed some throws that he should make, he didn't throw some throws that he should throw, could have run for yards and tried to throw across his body and was almost intercepted. He made some plays that just weren't up to par. He missed (Jermaine) Gresham on an out—he's 6-foot-5 for God's sakes and he throws it over his head—doesn't pull the trigger to (Andrew Hawkins) twice (in the end zone). Just a tough day."

AFC North matchups are always hard-fought contests, but each of these teams will need an added dimension to their game to inevitably win and clinch a playoff berth.

The Bengals have not won a game against the Steelers since 2009 when they swept the division for the first time in franchise history. Dalton has never been victorious against the Pittsburgh and sits at 0-3 against them.

Earlier this season, Dalton had his worst game in 2012 against the Steelers as he completed 14 of 28 passes for 105 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 56.4.

Dalton will have to showcase the talent that he has shown glimpses of within his first two years as a professional to have any chance of defeating his AFC North rival.

It seems that the team with the ability to fix its struggles in the passing game and against the passing game will come out of its Week 16 contest victorious.