It’s all or nothing tomorrow when the Steelers and Bengals do battle at Heinz Field. A win and the road to the playoffs becomes a lot more clearer for the Steelers. A loss, and next weeks game at home vs the Browns means nothing.
Can this team finally step up and do it?
Here’s our quick three keys to the game along with our pick for what should be an emotional game at Heinz Field for both teams with the playoffs all but on the line.
1. Beat Up the Red Head – Not really the Christmas spirit, but let’s be real, Andy Dalton has been awful vs the Steelers. The Bengals have lost their past five against Pittsburgh, and Dalton has never beaten the Steelers, with a passer rating vs the Steelers putrid. Dalton has a 72.0 rating with three touchdowns and three interceptions in December after posting a 117.2 rating with nine TDs and no picks in his final three games in November. The Steelers need to get to him early and often, and force some mistakes from him to give themselves a great shot at a win.
2. Hold Onto the Ball – This is the easiest thing that the Steelers HAVEN’T done in 2012, putting the ball on the ground at an alarming rate. The most frustrating are plays like last week when Antonio Brown was going off for a big return on a punt, then put the ball on the ground. The Bengals have allowed just 12.5 points per game over the past six, while forcing 15 turnovers. If the Steelers turn the ball over, and do it a couple of times, you can kiss the playoffs good-bye.
3. Be Physical, but Be Smart – This is a game that has a lot of emotion attached to it, and with as much pushing and shoving that will go on, the Steelers have to be sure to not draw unnecessary flags and either give the Bengals free yards, or even worse, first downs. There’s going to be a price to pay for not playing smart, and that’s a seat on the bench with as much as is on the line in this game. James Harrison has been solid as of late, and should have a huge game, but has to play within himself.
Prediction – I know that the Steelers have dominated the series and all that, but really that needs to be thrown out of the window here. This is a game that the Steelers need desperately, and usually when their backs are against the wall, they come out swinging. The Ravens game is a solid example of how the Steelers fight when they are being counted out. Look for Ben Roethlisberger to lead this offense to at least 23 points, and the defense to once again send Andy Dalton home with a loss. Pittsburgh 24 Cincinnati 13