Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers

This Week 17 AFC North battle has the playoff-eliminated Cincinnati Bengals traveling slightly east to spoil the playoff hopes of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who need a win here and for the Browns to beat the Ravens to stay alive in the postseason, happening in Pittsburgh, PA at Heinz Field on Sunday, December 30 at 4:25 pm, broadcasted by CBS.

The 6-9 Cincinnati Bengals:

The 6-9 Cincinnati Bengals, crippled by injuries, have lost eight of their last ten games, including a Week 16 defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns by a score of 18-26, their second loss to the previously unbeaten divisional rival.

Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel has had to play for the injured Andy Dalton (thumb) and against Cleveland, he completed 13-for-19 for 133 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Cincinnati is 2-5 on the road and just 1-4 against divisional rivals, so it’s no wonder they’re expected to get crushed in this one by over two touchdowns.

The 8-6-1 Pittsburgh Steelers:

Their season hanging by a thread, the 8-6-1 Pittsburgh Steelers have lost four of their last five games, including a nail-biter in New Orleans to the Saints by a score of 28-31.

Despite Steelers’ quarterback Big Ben Roethlisberger putting up some big numbers in that game – 33-for-50 for 380 yards, 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions – the defense couldn’t stop the Saints’ Drew Brees from scoring a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh is beatable at Heinz field this season, their home record 4-3, and their divisional record is 3-1-1 but it would take a total melt-down of the Steelers to not defeat a banged-up Bengals team in front of a Three-Rivers crowd.

What’s at stake:

These two teams have met 98 times (including 2 postseason games), with Pittsburgh winning 63 games and Cincinnati winning 35 games. The Steelers have won the last seven meetings, their latest win this season in Week 6 by a score of 28-21.

If the Bengals win this matchup, their record will be 7-9 and though they’d remain in last place in the AFC North, their victory will have spoiled the rival Steelers’ postseason chances.

But if the Steelers come out on top, they’ll be 9-6 but that won’t be good enough to win the AFC North or go to the playoffs unless the Cleveland Browns can beat the Baltimore Ravens.

Questions to answer…

Who’s favored to win this Week 17 Bengals-Steelers matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Bengals and the Steelers and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Bengals offense ranked 25th in the NFL

Cincinnati has only been scoring 23.7 points per game and moving the ball an average of 318.4 yards every outing.

Driskel hasn’t been horrible – completing 93-of-152 for 908 yards, six touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the eight games he’s played in, but his completion percentage is just 61.2 and he’s been sacked 12 times. 

Without injured receivers A.J. Green (toe), Tyler Boyd (knee) and tight end Tyler Eifert (ankle), Driskel’s targets have been John Ross and Alex Erickson, who had a tough time against the Browns, Ross with only one reception for three yards and Erickson with just two catches for 35 yards.

Bengals’ rushing attack 22nd overall

The bright spot on the Bengals’ offense remains running back Joe Mixon, who’s put together an impressive season ranked 5th in rushing yards with 1,063 along with 8 touchdowns and zero fumbles.

Mixon also has great hands, catching 42 balls for 294 yards and a touchdown.

Tight end C.J. Uzomah stepped up against the Browns, becoming the leading receiver wit 4 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown, averaging 12.2 yards per catch.

Cincinnati offensive Injuries

Listed as Questionable for Week 17: offensive tackle Bobby Hart (back).

Listed as Out for Week 17: wide receiver Tyler Boyd (knee-MCL).

The 2018 Steelers offense ranked 4th overall

The Steelers have been losing despite their excellent offense that’s scored an average of 27.5 points and has moved the ball 407.3 yards per game.

Roethlisberger is having a top-notch year, ranked first in passing yards with 4,842 total yards and 33 touchdowns along with 15 interceptions, sacked just 23 times.

Pittsburgh has two receivers with 1,200+ yards – JuJu Smith-Schuster with 1,389 yards and 6 touchdowns and Antonio Brown with 1,297 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns.

Pittsburgh’s run game 31st in the league

The Steelers’ run game has been their thorn in the side throughout the season, with All-Pro running back LeVeon Bell refusing to suit-up this season due to a failure of management to financially recognize his dual-threat skills.

His backup, James Conner, filled Bells shoes well with 253 touches for 1,376 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns, but a high ankle sprain has kept him out of the lineup for the last few weeks.

If Conner can’t go in Week 17 (see below), Jaylen Samuels will be getting the touches against the Bengals after posting 12 carries against the Browns for 53 total yards.

Pittsburgh offensive Injuries

Listed as Questionable for Week 17: running back James Conner (ankle).

Bengals Defense ranks 32nd in the league

Ranked worst in the league, the Bengals defense allows opponents to score 29.3 points and move the ball 418.3 yards per game with a rush defense ranked 29th and a pass defense ranked 30th.

Cincinnati has 11 team interceptions (T-21st most), 33 sacks (T-25th most) and their opponent red zone scoring percentage is 65.52 is ranked 26th in the league.

Bengals Defensive Players to watch:

The Bengals secondary has two members of the 100+ tackle club - free safety Jessie Bates (108 combined) and strong safety Shawn Williams (102 combined).

Big Ben needs to watch for big Geno Atkins, who has 10.0 sacks and 19 quarterback hits.

Cincinnati’s secondary is not a safe place to throw when strong safety Shawn Williams (4 interceptions) and free safety Jessie Bates (3 interceptions) are out there roaming.

Bengals defensive injuries

Listed as Questionable for Week 17: linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (shoulder).

Steelers Defense is 9th overall

Pittsburgh’s top-ten defense is stingy, allowing opponents to score 23.1 points and gain 335.9 yards per game, their rush defense ranked 6th and their pass defense ranked 16th.

The Steelers only have 8 interceptions (T-26th most), their 48 sacks is T-3rd most in the league, and their 60.42 opponent red zone scoring percentage is ranked 19th overall.

Steelers Defensive Players to watch:

Want to see a defensive player tear it up, keep your eye on T.J. Watt, who has 12.0 sacks (T-8th most), 21 quarterback hits, 61 combined tackles (12 for loss) and four forced fumbles.

Nose tackle Javon Hargrave can also sack, with 6.5 to his name.

Cornerback Joe Haden is always in the thick of it with 2 interceptions, 62 tackles, 12 passes defended and a forced fumble.

Steelers Defensive Injuries

Listed as questionable for Week 17: linebacker Vince Williams (foot).

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Punters:

Cincinnati’s punter, Kevin Huber, has been in the league and with the Bengals since 2009.

So far, Huber has punted 65 times for a net average of 39.1 yards per punt, tied for 22nd in the league.

Pittsburgh’s punter, Jordan Berry, is in his fourth year and has been a Steeler his whole career.

So far, Berry’s punted 58 times for a net average of 44.2 yards per punt, ranked 26th in the league.

Placekickers:

Cincinnati’s journeyman placekicker, Randy Bullock, is now playing for his fifth new team, sixth if you count his first brief stint with the Bengals in 2016.

Bullock is 17-for-21, his longest a 51-yarder. He has missed two extra point attempts (38/40).

Pittsburgh’ placekicker, Chris Boswell, in his fourth year, has only ever been a Steeler in the NFL and so far he’s 13-for-20, his longest a 50-yarder.

Boswell has missed 5 extra point attempts (43/48).

Punt Returners:

Cincinnati’s punt returner, wide receiver Alex Erickson, is ranked 14th in the league in return average.

Erickson has returned 19 punts for 211 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 11.1 yards per return, his longest for 38 yards.

Pittsburgh’s punt returner, wide receiver Ryan Switzer, was All-Rookie last season and is currently ranked 26th in the league in return average.

Switzer has returned 27 punts for 232 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 8.6 yards per return, his longest for 23 yards.

Bengals–Steelers prediction and odds

The odds makers have the Steelers favored over the Bengals by 14.5 with an over/under of 45.5.

CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:

Pete Prisco goes with the over and has it Steelers 34, Bengals 19

John Breech takes the over and predicts it Steelers 31, Bengals 17

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