One of the many interesting story lines of Sunday’s pivotal Bengals-Steelers matchup will be whether Pittsburgh can establish any semblance of a running game against a Cincinnati defense that has slammed the door on ground attacks in recent weeks.
In the past three games, the Bengals have not allowed a rush of longer than 11 yards — a scramble by Chargers QB Philip Rivers when Cincinnati had dropped into pass coverage deep in its own end of the field. The way we hear it, improved discipline from the linebackers has been one of the factors in the Bengals’ improvement vs. the run.
The Bengals’ recent strong run defense is in stark contrast to their problems stopping Pittsburgh’s ground game in the Steelers’ 24-17 Week Seven win at Cincinnati. In victory, the Steelers racked up a season-high 167 yards on 29 carries.
However, Pittsburgh’s ground game has tailed off in recent weeks, with the Steelers exceeding 100 rushing yards in just one of the last six games. The Steelers have had to continually reshuffle their offensive line because of injuries, and how Pittsburgh holds up against Cincinnati’s strong front four is an area to watch.
Steelers OLG Willie Colon, who starred as a run blocker in the first meeting with Cincinnati, is out for the season with a knee injury. Another solid run blocker, ORT Mike Adams, has missed the past three games with an ankle injury.