Final

Bengals 20

(9-5, 3-5 away)

Steelers 30

(6-8, 4-3 home)

Coverage: NBC

8:30 PM ET, December 15, 2013

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA 

1 2 3 4 T
CIN 0 7 0 1320
PIT 21 6 3 030

Top Performers

Passing: A. Dalton (CIN) - 230 YDS, 2 TD

Rushing: L. Bell (PIT) - 24 CAR, 57 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: A. Green (CIN) - 9 REC, 93 YDS

Bengals-Steelers Preview

STATS LLC

The Cincinnati Bengals are on the cusp of something that hasn't happened in the team's 46-year history. They've been to the playoffs before, sure, but it's never become a trend.

The Bengals have a chance to earn a postseason berth for a third consecutive season -- with a little help -- when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

A win over the Steelers and a loss or tie by either Baltimore or Miami will put Cincinnati in the playoffs in three straight years for the first time. If it's the Ravens who lose or tie while the Bengals win, the AFC North title is theirs.

"We're on a roll," linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "At the beginning of the year, we had three goals. We wanted to be undefeated at home, win the AFC North and eventually be world champions."

Before they can look ahead, though, the Bengals need to take care of business under the lights in Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati (9-4) has won three straight, two with an offensive outburst and one behind a stellar effort on the defensive side. The Bengals beat Cleveland and Indianapolis by a combined 83-48 score. In between, they shut the Chargers down in a 17-10 win at San Diego.

Andy Dalton is currently enjoying the highest passer rating of his career, a still-modest 87.7, while the running-back tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard has been causing fits for the opposition. They've combined for 1,282 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns, while Bernard also has three receiving scores.

The Bengals' 160 passing first downs and their 86 rushing both rank in the top-half of the NFL, while the team's 25.7 points per game is tied for ninth.

Cincinnati has also thrived behind one of the NFL's top pass rushes. Though no player has more than seven sacks, 12 have recorded at least one and three have six or more quarterback takedowns.

That should be a concern for the Steelers (5-8), who have had trouble this season protecting Ben Roethlisberger.

Due to various injuries on the offensive line, Pittsburgh's blocking has been substandard, with Roethlisberger absorbing 39 sacks -- tied for third most in the NFL. The Bengals took the two-time Super Bowl winner down twice in a 20-10 home win Sept. 16.

Bernard scored twice for Cincinnati in that one, while Roethlisberger went 20 of 37 with a touchdown and an interception to post his second-worst rating (73.1) of 2013.

"We didn't win the first game against these guys," said Pittsburgh receiver Jerricho Cotchery. "We are going to be up for the challenge. Guys are going to be ready to play."

The Steelers are coming off a pair of losses in which the most memorable moments involved crossing the sideline.

They fell to the Ravens 22-20 on Thanksgiving in a game best remembered for coach Mike Tomlin overstepping the sideline, entering the field of play and interfering with Baltimore kick returner Jacoby Jones -- a gaffe which cost Tomlin a $100,000 fine.

Last Sunday, wide receiver Antonio Brown also overstepped the sideline, but he left the field of play when he narrowly stepped out of bounds on a last-second reception that would have won the game. Instead, the Steelers lost to the Dolphins 34-28.

The frustrating losses, and the unlikely chances of them making the playoffs, haven't distracted the Steelers as they prepare for a chance to play spoiler.

According to Tomlin, the team is "putting together a plan that is geared toward defeating the Cincinnati Bengals."

Roethlisberger has played well of late despite the team's struggles. In the last four games, the quarterback has completed 63.0 percent of his passes, throwing 11 touchdowns and, more importantly, no interceptions. He has a 14-6 career record against the Bengals.

"We know what's at stake," said Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell. "Guys just have to be ready. We have to be ready for it."

History doesn't matter much to the Bengals, who hold a two-game lead over Baltimore in the division and have a lot left to play for in the coming weeks. Beyond their third straight playoff berth and a division crown, a first-round bye is also within reach.

"We've just got to take care of our business and we'll be all right," Bengals cornerback Adam Jones told the team's official web site. "If we just win out we'll be OK. That's all we've got to do: win out and let everything else take care of itself."

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Passing Leaders

CincinnatiCMP%YDSTDINT
A. Dalton64.0137563
M. Sanu100.06810
PittsburghCMP%YDSTDINT
B. Roethlisberger65.3159383
R. Golden100.02500

Rushing Leaders

CincinnatiCARYDSAVGTD
G. Bernard934014.34
J. Hill401704.33
PittsburghCARYDSAVGTD
L. Bell1055425.21
L. Blount372135.82

Receiving Leaders

CincinnatiRECYDSAVGTD
M. Sanu3040813.63
A. Green1731418.52
PittsburghRECYDSAVGTD
A. Brown4162915.35
M. Wheaton2427711.50

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

TEAM OFFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Total YardsCIN
 
 368
PIT
 
 338
Yards PassingCIN
 
 259
PIT
 
 251
Yards RushingCIN
 
 110
PIT
 
 86
TEAM DEFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Yards AllowedCIN
 
 306
PIT
 
 338
Pass Yds AllowedCIN
 
 209
PIT
 
 222
Rush Yds AllowedCIN
 
 97
PIT
 
 116

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

Pittsburgh leads 19-8
Sep 16, 2013CIN 20, PIT 10
Dec 23, 2012CIN 13, @PIT 10
Oct 21, 2012CIN 17, PIT 24
Dec 4, 2011CIN 7, @PIT 35
Nov 13, 2011CIN 17, PIT 24
Dec 12, 2010CIN 7, @PIT 23
Nov 8, 2010CIN 21, PIT 27
Nov 15, 2009CIN 18, @PIT 12
Sep 27, 2009CIN 23, PIT 20
Nov 20, 2008CIN 10, @PIT 27
Oct 19, 2008CIN 10, PIT 38
Dec 2, 2007CIN 10, @PIT 24
Oct 28, 2007CIN 13, PIT 24
Dec 31, 2006CIN 17, PIT 23
Sep 24, 2006CIN 28, @PIT 20
Jan 8, 2006CIN 17, PIT 31
Dec 4, 2005CIN 38, @PIT 31
Oct 23, 2005CIN 13, PIT 27
Nov 21, 2004CIN 14, PIT 19
Oct 3, 2004CIN 17, @PIT 28
Nov 30, 2003CIN 24, @PIT 20
Sep 21, 2003CIN 10, PIT 17
Nov 24, 2002CIN 21, @PIT 29
Oct 13, 2002CIN 7, PIT 34
Dec 30, 2001CIN 26, PIT 23
Oct 7, 2001CIN 7, @PIT 16

Research Notes

Bengals tied a team record for points allowed in 1st quarter, with 21 points allowed on Sunday. They previously allowed 21 in a win over the Seahawks and 21 in a loss to the Bears in 1986
The Bengals sent four or fewer pass rushers on 20 of Ben Roethlisberger's 26 dropbacks (77%). Roethlisberger completed 85% of his passes against such pressure, his highest in a game in the two seasons. Andy Dalton, however, completed only half of his passes against four or fewer pass rushers, tied for his lowest in a game in the last two seasons. - Roethlisberger was 5-of-6 for 66 yards targeting Antonio Brown. Brown is the first player since 2001 to have five catches and 50 yards in each of his team's first 14 games of a season.
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