Bengals vs. Steelers: How Did Pittsburgh's 5 Key Matchups Fare vs. Cincinnati?
With a 24-17 win the last time the two sides met, the Pittsburgh Steelers comprehensively defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 35-7, sweeping the season series between the two AFC North rivals and keeping Pittsburgh in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Before the game, I selected five matchups in this article which I believed would be crucial in deciding the outcome of the game.
Here is a look at how those five matchups fared.
Ike Taylor vs. A.J. Green
Both Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski targeted A.J. Green throughout the game.
Green finished the game having been targeted 11 times by the two quarterbacks. Of those 11, Green reeled in six of these passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
Green also had a penalty which nullified a Jermain Gresham touchdown in the first quarter.
Ike Taylor, on the other side of the ball, had a solid outing. Taylor finished with three passes defended and an interception from a Gradkowski pass, his second in two games.
Taylor appears to be coming into great form at a crucial part of the season for the Steelers.
Mike Wallace vs. Nate Clements
While Mike Wallace was only targeted by Ben Roethlisberger six times and had only three catches for 38 yards, two of those were touchdown catches, the second of which was an incredible display of what Wallace can do after the catch.
He also had a solitary rushing attempt from a lateral for minus-three yards.
Nate Clements was inactive for this game, so instead Wallace spent most of the day against Kelly Jennings, though he also lined up against Adam "Pacman" Jones. Jennings failed to prevent Wallace from getting past him on either of his touchdowns, but ended the day with seven tackles.
James Harrison vs. Andrew Whitworth
James Harrison was another Steelers defender who was back to his best on Sunday against the Bengals, recording three sacks, giving him eight for the season.
This was a significant improvement from his last outing against Cincinnati, when he had no sacks at all and only four tackles.
Harrison finished this game with a total of six tackles.
Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth was soundly beaten on these occasions by Harrison, including the final of his three sacks when Harrison got through untouched and took down Gradkowski.
Rey Maualuga vs. Rashard Mendenhall
Rashard Mendenhall had a solid outing on Sunday. While not topping 100 yards, he still had 16 carries for 60 yards, a yards-per-carry average of 3.8 and scored two rushing touchdowns.
His first scoring run showed off his strength, lowering his pads and powering forwards to get into the end zone, while his second touchdown run was all about agility, as Mendenhall juked the Bengals defense for the score.
Of Maualuga’s six tackles, four were to stop Mendenhall. However, Maualuga was powerless to stop Mendenhall’s two touchdown runs, as he beat the Bengals defense and Maualuga to the pay dirt.
Andy Dalton vs. Ryan Mundy
Contrary to what I said, Troy Polamalu did play against the Bengals, not Ryan Mundy. Polamalu’s "concussion-like symptoms" did not seem to have too much of an impact on his play, with four tackles and one pass defended.
However, there was one penalty against him for a defensive offside.
Andy Dalton’s game was cut short when he was pulled by Cincinnati in the fourth quarter with a hip injury. Before leaving the game, Dalton completed 11-of-24 passes, a 45.8 percent completion rate, for 135 yards and one touchdown pass to A.J. Green.
His replacement, Bruce Gradkowski, did not fare any better, completing 3-of-6 passes for 17 yards, while also throwing an interception.