The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a BYE week rested and healed. Willie Parker is healthy along with Casey Hampton, Carrie Davis, and Brett Keisel.
Roethlisberger has never lost in Ohio. That, combined with the overall level of play of the Bengals, should put the game away in the Steelers' favor, but don't take the team lightly like the Giants did with the Browns, or else it could be an upset. Marvin Lewis's job is on the line, and no team wants to keep losing, especially not to a rival.
Steelers' Corners Deshea Townsend and Ike Taylor vs. Bengals Wide Receivers
The Bengals have struggled all over, and with their passing game handicapped by the loss of Carson Palmer, it will see more and more turmoil come Sunday. The Steelers rank 3rd in pass defense only allowing 164.8 yards a game compared to the Bengals' 27th ranked pass offense managing a hair over 155 yards a game.
TJ Houshmandzadeh is the team's leading receiver with 38 receptions for 400 yards and 3 TDs. TJ has always been the problem for the Steelers because of the overloaded coverage on Chad Ocho Cinco, however that might change this year due to Ocho Cinco's lack of willingness to play. Ocho Cinco has half the catches and yards of TJ managing only 1 TD. However, Chris Henry is back for his second game of the season. Henry only received 1 catch last week for 13 yards, but will be a bigger target against the Steelers.
Deshea Townsend and Ike Taylor are shutdown corners; despite the lack of numbers with no interceptions and only 3 passes deflected each, they are very physical and like to contact at the line. If either should get into trouble, free safety Ryan Clark or strong saftey Troy Polamalu will be the help.
LOLB James Harrison vs. Rookie LT Anthony Collins
James Harrison has become one of the top pass rushing linebackers in the game. Earning his first starting job last season, Harrison acquired Pro Bowl honors and the Monday Night Horse Trailer Player of the Game against the Baltimore Ravens. Harrison this year already has 31 tackles, 6 being sacks, and 3 forced fumbles.
Anthony Collins, filling in for the injured veteran Levi Jones, has only started one game this year. There is really no solid evidence on how he will do, but just like Duane Brown in week one showed, making an early start against the Pittsburgh Defense can be a very frustrating one.
James Harrison proved week one how he can embarass rookies, this situation will be no different, especially with an inexperienced quarterback.
Bengals' Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Steelers' Troy Polamalu
Troy Polamalu has made a name for himself dancing in and out of the secondary and tackle box playing as a pass defending safety and a run stopping linebacker. Polamalu is a very athletic football player and can get in the head of even the most composed quarterbacks. He has a habit of getting caught at the line of scrimmage when he has to go into coverage, but he has the awareness and ability to make up for it. Polamalu has 25 tackles and 3 interceptions this season and should better both of those totals come Sunday.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is only making his 3rd start as a Bengal this season, and has struggled. He has a 60% completion percentage with only 1 TD and 4 interceptions. Fitzpatrick is coming into this game against the 3rd ranked pass defense and the league's most deadliest safety. Look for Fitzpatrick to be limited on his throwing and for only 40% of plays be pass plays.
Steelers' Willie Parker vs. Bengals' Defensive Line
Willie Parker will be returning from a knee sprain injury and ready to get his season going again. The Bengals' defense ranks 28th in the league in stopping the run allowing just under 160 yards a game. Despite being out for two weeks, Parker has still amassed 270 rushing yards and 3 TDs in just 3 games. Depending on Bruce Arians's gameplan, Parker could have a career game on Sunday.
Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger vs. Bengals' Secondary
Roethlisberger, who has suffered, yet played through, a separated shoulder, is healthy in coming off a week 5 game in which he passed for over 300 yards for the 6th time in his career. The Steeler passing game is ranked 23rd in the league with only 170 yards a game. Roethlisberger has thrown just under 1,000 yards on the season with 7 TDs and only 3 interceptions. Ben has shown a tendency to hang in the pocket for a prolonged time. As seen from last week against the Jets, the Bengals' front can get to the quarterback and cause errant throws resulting in two of Brett Favre's. Roethlisberger will have to make quick decisions on Sunday to avoid turnovers, despite the fact that the Bengals only have 4 interceptions.
The Steelers come into Cincinnatti on Sunday 4-1 with an all-time winning record against the 0-6 Bengals. Roethlisberger has never lost a game in Ohio in his pro career. The Steelers' defense ranks in the top three in every category and go up against the bottom ranked Bengals offense who is in the bottom three in every category. Despite the lopsided statistics, it is a rivalry game, so look for a physical smashmouth game.
Steelers win 27-10