The Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry is obviously well-documented. But with how this 2021 season is shaping up, Sunday’s meeting in Cincinnati takes on some added stakes. Here are three key storylines going into Week 12.
Cincinnati goes for first sweep of Pittsburgh in 12 years
The Bengals are enjoying something in this series that has become somewhat of a rarity: a winning streak.
The Week 3 win for the Bengals marked their second straight win over the Steelers, following their home Monday night win on December 21 last season that helped the Steelers season spiral out of control late. It was also Cincinnati’s first win in Pittsburgh since a 16-10 win on November 1, 2015.
But the last time the Bengals were able to break out the brooms on the Steelers was way back in 2009. They won at home, 23-20, on September 27, then won in Pittsburgh, 18-12, on November 15. Cincinnati went on the win the AFC North at 10-6 that season. Completing the season sweep in 2021 would go a long way toward the Bengals reaching the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Bengals’ No. 3 rush defense vs. NFL’s third-most rushed running back
One of the key matchups going into this game is the Bengals strong rush defense against one of the most-used running backs in the NFL.
The Bengals have allowed 980 rushing yards this season, which is third-fewest in the NFL behind only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (784) and Baltimore Ravens (886). They’ll face Najee Harris, who has the third-highest rushing attempt total in the league with 188. Derrick Henry (219) and Jonathan Taylor (193) have more. Interestingly enough, Joe Mixon is fourth on the list with 180 attempts.
Back in Week 3, Cincinnati was able to contain Harris on the ground, limiting him to just 40 rushing yards on 14 carries. Of course, there was also the whole 102 receiving yards on 14 catches. But it is one of only three games this season that Harris did not score a touchdown. If Cincinnati can slow down Harris, their chances of winning go way up.
Steelers will be getting their reinforcements back, just in time for first date with Bengals, who are quite healthy
The Bengals better be ready because one of the most disruptive forces in the league will be back in the lineup for the Steelers. All-Pro edge T.J. Watt will be back for Pittsburgh after missing last week’s game against the Chargers with hip and knee injuries.
This will be the first time the Bengals see Watt as he missed the Week 3 meeting because of an injury as well, If the Bengals are to complete the season sweep, they have to find a way to neutralize Watt.
The Steelers aren’t 100 percent, however. Cornerback Joe Haden is out with a foot injury. Haden missed practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday and Friday. TE Eric Ebron is out with a knee injury as is center J.C. Hassenauer with a pectoral injury.
The Bengals, on the other hand, are about as healthy as you can be in Week 12. The only Bengal that did not practice this week, and the only one with a game designation, is WR Auden Tate, who is out with a thigh injury. Everyone else that’s available practiced in full Thursday and Friday.
Steelers vs. Bengals preview: 7 things to know about Week 12