6 Bold Predictions for Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 15 Matchup
What could have been a key battle between two AFC North teams primed for a division championship instead will only impact which seed the Bengals will have in the playoffs.
Though the odds are stacked against them, Mike Tomlin does not plan to change his team’s approach this week, per Steelers.com. In other words, do not expect Tomlin to throw the backups into the lineup to see what they are capable of.
The Steelers will be looking to finish an otherwise miserable 2013 on a strong note to avoid their first losing season under Tomlin.
Here are six bold predictions as the Steelers have one last opportunity to salvage a non-losing season.
Bell Has 1st Career 100-Yard Rushing Game
Le’Veon Bell has had six consecutive weeks with at least 15 carries but has yet to pass the century mark in rushing yards.
He appeared poised for a 100-yard rushing game last week after he ran for 36 yards on nine carries in the first quarter. However, he only had six more carries the rest of the game, which confused many, including Ben Roethlisberger.
The Bengals will provide a stiff challenge for Bell and the Steelers ground game, as they are fifth in the league, allowing just 98.2 yards per game on the ground.
However, Bell has been running well as of late with 134 yards on 31 carries over the last two games. If he gets 25-30 carries, he should achieve his first 100-yard rushing game of his career.
A cold forecast Sunday night means that the Steelers should put the ball in Bell’s hands and see if he can help carry them to a victory.
Worilds Will Add 2 More Sacks
It took nearly four seasons, but Jason Worilds is finally showing that he can be a good pass-rusher.
Worilds has had a solid season and has been making the most of his opportunities as of late. He has 57 tackles and eight sacks this year, with four of those sacks coming over the last two weeks.
Expect Worilds to once again be the Steelers’ top pass-rusher this week. With another strong performance, he will give the team more to think about come contract time.
Roethlisberger Will Throw for Under 250 Yards
With a low temperature of 12 degrees on Sunday, the Steelers offense may find it challenging to sling the ball around the field.
That is not to say Ben Roethlisberger can’t throw the ball well in subfreezing temperatures. According to ESPN.com, he ranks fourth in the league since 2001 in completion percentage when the temperature is below freezing, completing 62 percent of his passes.
Pittsburgh’s offense will still utilize the passing game to try to move the chains, but it will likely do so with a short passing attack. The Steelers would also be wise to use a steady dose of Bell to take advantage of his power running style in the cold weather.
Through Pittsburgh's first 13 games, Roethlisberger has only thrown the ball for fewer than 250 yards four times, and the Steelers have won three of those games.
Secondary Will Keep A.J. Green in Check
I already know what you are thinking after reading the title: “How can the Steelers keep A.J. Green in check?”
It is hard to believe that they are capable of this after getting shredded in recent weeks by Calvin Johnson (179 yards and two touchdowns), Josh Gordon (14 receptions for 237 yards and a touchdown), Torrey Smith (93 yards and a touchdown) and Charles Clay (97 yards and two touchdowns).
Charles Clay? Who?
Believe it or not, the Steelers have had success in containing Green. In five games, he has 24 receptions for 288 yards and three touchdowns. His best game against the Steelers was last year in Pittsburgh when he had 10 receptions. It is worth noting that Ike Taylor missed that game.
Taylor has struggled over the past month or so, but he has a proven track record against Green. Look for him and the secondary to key in on Green and hold him to six or fewer receptions for under 75 yards and no scores.
Cameron Heyward Will Be Best Defender…Again
If there are any questions as to why the Steelers defense has struggled this season, look no further than who the best player has been—Cameron Heyward.
By no means is this a knock on Heyward—because it is not—but rather the idea that a defensive end has been the best defender in recent weeks. That role should be reserved for one of the highly paid linebackers.
Heyward earned high marks from Pro Football Focus with a plus-3.1 rating. He was credited with 10 tackles, two hurries, a sack and a pass defended.
Expect Heyward’s excellent performance to continue, as he will throw a couple of Cincinnati defenders to the ground, cause disruption in the backfield and add another sack to his current season total of four.
Steelers Will Lose a Close One
The Bengals are playing for a potential first-round bye, and the Steelers are playing for pride. Let’s just say Cincinnati has a bit more to play for.
The Steelers are not as bad as their 5-8 record indicates, but they are not good enough either to beat a talented Cincinnati squad.
A loss for the Steelers will inch them closer to clinching a top-10 draft choice, but they will be competitive. Five of their eight losses have been by a touchdown or less, and this week should continue that trend.
This will clinch the Steelers’ first losing season under Mike Tomlin and will put them one week closer to the offseason.
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