November 14, 2009
Bengals-Steelers scouting report

[HIGH-LIGHT]When the Bengals run[/HIGH-LIGHT]

Cedric Benson has posted 100-yard games in three of his past four and is running with a lot of confidence and power behind an offensive line that continues to open some pretty big holes. He had 76 yards in the first game, but 58 of those came in the second half, including a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that brought the Bengals within five. Bernard Scott could see some spot duty while Brian Leonard will be used in third-down situations. The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 30 straight games. DE Nick Eason did a nice job last week at Denver in run support while LB LaMarr Woodley can disrupt things in the backfield and force tackles for loss.

[HIGH-LIGHT]When the Bengals pass[/HIGH-LIGHT]

In his past six against Pittsburgh, Carson Palmer has completed 120 of 214 for 1,242 yards with 11 touchdowns against two interceptions.The Bengals are 2-4 in those games. In the past four games, Chad Ochocinco is averaging 6.8 catches and 95.3 yards. After having 10 receptions in his first five games, Laveranues Coles has 12 in the last three. Pittsburgh's pass rush, which is led by LB James Harrison, is always a concern. Harrison is tied for third in the conference with eight sacks. The Steelers' safeties have accounted for seven of the team's eight interceptions. Troy Polamalu has three in four games played and Tyrone Carter had two in last Monday's win against Denver, including a 48-yard return for a touchdown.

[HIGH-LIGHT]When the Steelers run[/HIGH-LIGHT]

Since replacing Willie Parker as the starter five games ago, Rashard Mendenhall is averaging 105.6 yards per game. In the win over Denver, the second-year back had just 25 yards on six carries before having three runs of 24 yards or more in the second half to finish with 155 on 22 carries. Willie Parker has four 100-yard games against the Bengals but will see spot duty at best. After holding Baltimore to 55 yards rushing, the Bengals have vaulted to second in run defense in large part to the work of their defensive line and tackles Domata Peko, Pat Sims and Tank Johnson.

[HIGH-LIGHT]When the Steelers pass[/HIGH-LIGHT]

In his past three against the Bengals, Ben Roethlisberger is 56 of 89 for 735 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Santonio Holmes had just one catch in the first meeting but had six catches for 93 yards against Denver. Hines Ward is in the top six in the AFC in receptions (49) and yards (646) and burned the Bengals on a couple deep routes during the first game. Two others to account for are rookie Mike Wallace (7 catches, 102 yards in the first game) and tight end Heath Miller, who can hammer teams on short and middle routes. The Bengals have eight interceptions and nine sacks in their last four games. Johnathan Joseph has four INTs this year, all against AFC North teams, and his 30-yard pick of Roethlisberger for a TD in Week 3 put the Bengals back in the game. Leon Hall has four interceptions in the last four games and is aiming for his third straight game with a pick.

[HIGH-LIGHT]Special teams[/HIGH-LIGHT]

The Bengals have been solid the past couple weeks on coverage teams, but kick returns remain a lingering question. Andre Caldwell is last in the league with a 18.6 per return average. They continue to get good field positions on punts with teams the last four games trying to kick it away from Quan Cosby, who is third at 12.4 yards per return. Shayne Graham has made his last four field goals. Since a 52-yard miss against the Bengals, Steelers placekicker Jeff Reed has made his last five. Stefan Logan can be a dangerous kick returner and is averaging 26.1 yards.

Tale of the Tape

Additional Facts

Offensive consistency: Palmer benefited from another clean pocket last week against Baltimore and needs the same thing against the Steelers, who are expected to bring plenty of pressure. Like the first meeting against Pittsburgh, the Bengals need to stick to the running game and let Benson get his carries so that can allow Palmer to have plenty of opportunities using play action.

Line 'em up: Pittsburgh's offensive line has improved slightly, but has given up 23 sacks, while the Bengals' defensive line has not lost a step despite the loss of defensive end Antwan Odom nearly four weeks ago. The D-line needs to continue to get penetration and pressure which should help the secondary in maintaining coverage against three tough receivers.

No place like road: The Bengals are 3-0 in away games this season and until recent games against the Bears and Ravens seemed to perform better on the road than at home. Pittsburgh though has won eight straight at home and Heinz Field is one of the more difficult places to play in the league, especially when the wind is kicking up. No opponent has made a 50-yard field goal since it opened in 2001.

Prediction: [HIGH-LIGHT]Steelers 20, Bengals 17[/HIGH-LIGHT] - The Bengals have served notice that they are ready to make a playoff run this season, but the Steelers are still a force in the divison, especially at home.