CINCINNATI BENGALS (2-3) AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (4-2)
SERIES HISTORY: 94th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 58-35. The Steelers have won the past four meetings and seven of eight, including an 18-16 last-second win in a 2015 AFC wild-card playoff game. Pittsburgh owns a 31-16 record against the Bengals at home.
KEYS TO THE GAME: This game means everything to the Bengals, who can get back to .500 and become a factor in the AFC North.
This is easier said than done against a Pittsburgh team that has beaten them more often than not, especially at Heinz Field. The Bengals expect a low-scoring game, with both defenses ranked among the league's best.
Expect Cincinnati to try to establish the running game early, even though it averages just 3.2 yards per rush.
The Steelers found a winning formula against the Chiefs: Le'Veon Bell ran for 179 yards and scored a touchdown, and the Steelers kept the Chiefs' high-powered offense off the field by controlling the time of possession.
While the Bengals aren't the Chiefs when it comes to offensive firepower they have been much better since Bill Lazor was hired as offensive coordinator three weeks ago. In three games with Lazor as the play caller, the Bengals have scored 20, 31 and 24 points. The Steelers can keep Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton off the field by controlling the clock with Bell.
The Steelers have to get pressure on Dalton. They are tied for the NFL lead with 20 sacks in the first six games.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Steelers CB Joe Haden. Green has 77 catches for 1,046 yards and seven TDs against the Steelers. Haden, in his eighth season, has three INTs in 10 career games against the Bengals. Haden and Green had some classic matchups during Haden's seven seasons in Cleveland.
--Steelers WR Martavis Bryant vs. Bengals secondary. Sure, Antonio Brown is Ben Roethlisberger's primary target. But, Bryant has destroyed the Bengals with 257 receiving yards and three TDs in five games. Cincinnati's most experienced corner, Adam Jones, has been out with a back injury. Bryant is coming off a tumultuous week in which he reportedly demanded a trade.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bengals DT Geno Atkins. He again is leading all NFL interior linemen with four sacks this season. He has finished at least tied for the lead in that category in four of the past seven seasons. This season, Atkins is benefiting from rookies Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis, who have contributed right away. Atkins has 56 career sacks, most by a Bengals interior lineman and fifth-best overall.
FAST FACTS: Bengals QB Andy Dalton threw for 366 yards and a TD in the last road meeting. He has 1,335 yards, 10 TDs and no INTs in his past five division road games. ... RB Giovani Bernard had a career-high nine catches for 100 yards and a TD in the last meeting. In his past four vs. the division, he has 362 scrimmage yards and three TDs. ... DE Carlos Dunlap has 22.5 sacks since 2015, tied for fifth among NFL DEs. ... Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger has 1,756 passing yards (292.7 per game) and 10 TD passes in the past six meetings. He has thrown at least three TD passes in three straight home division games. ... RB Le'Veon Bell has four games with 175 rushing yards since 2014, most in the NFL. He had 131 scrimmage yards in the last meeting and has gone over 100 in four of five career meetings. This season, he is third in the NFL with 550 rushing yards and fourth with 706 scrimmage yards. ... WR Ju Ju Smith-Schuster is one of five NFL rookies with 175 receiving yards (192) and two TD catches (2). ... LB Vince Williams had two sacks in Week 6, his first career multi-sack game. He leads the team with four sacks.
PREDICTION: Bell, Brown and the Steelers' defense will be a tough trifecta for the Bengals to hit.
OUR PICK: Steelers, 20-17.