Two AFC North foes are going head-to-head in Cincinnati in Week 12 as the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5, second in AFC North) square off with the Cincinnati Bengals (0-10, fourth in AFC North) on Sunday afternoon. The Steelers are coming off a controversial and combative 21-7 loss against the Browns, while the Bengals fell 17-10 in Oakland against the Raiders and are still in search of their first win.
Here is a preview for Sunday’s game, along with odds and a pick.
By The Numbers
The Steelers, despite having won four in a row before last Thursday’s loss, are still struggling on offense. Pittsburgh ranks 28th in total yards with 283.5 and 24th with 20.0 points per game. They’re also 27th in both passing and rushing yards.
On defense, the Steelers rank a respectable 11th in yards allowed with 328.3 and 13th with 20.2 points. They are also top 10 this season defending the pass.
As one can expect from a winless team, the Bengals don’t have a lot of strong areas. Cincinnati’s offense is 30th in points with 14.7 and 27th in total yards with 309.1. While they rank in the middle of the league in passing, they’re just 28th in team rushing yards per game.
The Cincinnati defense is even worse, as the Bengals allow a league-high 167.0 rushing yards and 425.1 total yards per game. Cincy is also 28th in points allowed with 27.6.
- Can Cincinnati protect its QB? In the first meeting between these teams back on Sept. 30, the Steelers sacked Andy Dalton eight times in a 27-3 rout in Pittsburgh. Now with Sunday’s game in Cincinnati and rookie Ryan Finley under center, the Bengals are hoping that this game goes very differently. Fortunately, their offensive line will be better than it was back in September. Left tackle Cordy Glenn is back after missing 10 games, and Billy Price is continuing to start at guard, replacing the rookie Michael Jordan.
- No James and JuJu. The Steelers will play Sunday’s game without their top two players on offense. In last week’s loss, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a concussion and knee injury, while running back James Conner re-aggravated a shoulder injury that kept him out for a few games earlier this season. Expect Benny Snell Jr. and Jaylen Samuels to split carries in Conner’s absence, while either Diontae Johnson or James Washington elevates to the No. 1 receiver role.
- Rivalry domination. This has been a very one-sided rivalry for quite some time. Pittsburgh has won its last nine games against Cincinnati and 12 of 13, including six in a row at Paul Brown Stadium. In Mike Tomlin’s career with the Steelers, he’s gone 20-5 against the Bengals. Needless to say, a win by Cincinnati would mean jubilation for the Bengals and agony for the Steelers.
As mentioned earlier, both Conner and Smith-Schuster are officially ruled out. Cornerback Artie Burns practiced on Friday but is still considered doubtful, while center Maurkice Pouncey will serve the first of his two-game suspension stemming from last week’s brawl. Other than those players, everyone else should be good to go for the Steelers.
Cincinnati’s star receiver A.J. Green isn’t quite ready to make his season debut yet, as he has been ruled out for Sunday. Tight end Tyler Eifert and defensive tackle Geno Atkins were listed on the injury report for rest purposes, but both should be ready to play. Wide receivers Auden Tate and Stanley Morgan are the only players for the Bengals listed as questionable.
Odds and Pick
Pittsburgh is a 6.5-point favorite on the road, which is understandable given its history against the Bengals and the fact Cincy is winless. However, the Steelers are without their top offensive players and their top offensive lineman, while the Bengals have a healthier line to protect Finley. Plus, it seems like the Steelers lose one of these “easy” games for them at least once a year. So in one of the biggest upsets of the season, I’m picking the Bengals +6.5 to get their first win in 2019.