It’s been 31 years since the Cincinnati Bengals won three straight games over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Boomer Esiason was the Bengals’ quarterback, Chuck Noll was the Steelers’ coach, and the hit Christmas movie “Home Alone” had just hit the theaters.
A Bengals win on Sunday would do more than repeat history. A Cincy win over the Steelers would create a considerable gap between the two teams in the AFC North division race as well as the wild-card race. At 6-4, the Bengals are currently on the inside in the AFC playoff picture, while the Steelers, who are 5-4-1 after dropping last week’s game to the Chargers, are currently on the outside looking in. And considering what opponents lie ahead, the Steelers are in need of a win on Sunday to improve their odds at making the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
We’ll preview the game along with giving our prediction for Sunday’s outcome. Here’s how you can follow the action in real time.
How to watch
Date: Sunday, Nov. 29 | Time: 1 p.m. ETLocation: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati, Ohio) TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)Follow: CBS Sports App Odds: Bengals -4.5, 45
When the Steelers have the ball
Pittsburgh’s offense, despite scoring a season-high 37 points in last Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles, has some serious concerns. The offensive line has taken steps back in recent weeks, specifically when it comes to opening up holes for rookie running back Najee Harris. The unit is currently 27th in the NFL in rushing and 29th in yards per carry average. Pittsburgh’s line has its work cut out for it Sunday against a Cincinnati defense that is sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. Harris won’t have to run wild, but he will have to provide steady gains in order to keep the Bengals’ defense honest. The Steelers can’t get away from the running game, even if it’s tough sledding early on.
An encouraging facet of Pittsburgh’s offense has been the elevated play of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who over his last five games has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions. The Steelers will have to do a good job protecting Roethlisberger, who was taken down four times and hit on numerous other occasions during Pittsburgh’s Week 3 loss to Cincinnati. A key matchup will be Steelers offensive tackles Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor against Bengals defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson. Both Hubbard and Hendrickson had sacks in Cincinnati’s 24-10 win over Pittsburgh back in Week 3.
When the Bengals have the ball
Cincinnati has enjoyed a solid season from second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, who went 14 of 18 with two touchdown passes to rookie phenom Ja’Marr Chase during Cincinnati’s Week 3 win over Pittsburgh. For the only time this season, Burrow was not sacked during that game; a big reason why was the absence of Steelers pass rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Watt is working this way back from multiple injuries that left him out of last Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. The Steelers are also hoping to have back cornerback Joe Haden and will have safety Minkah Fitzpatrick back for Sunday’s game. If Watt is anywhere close to full strength, rest assured that Burrow will not leave Sunday’s game unscathed. More pressure may also lead to a turnover from Burrow, who has thrown at least one interception in nine of Cincinnati’s first 11 games.
The Bengals’ offense has also enjoyed a strong campaign from running back Joe Mixon, who has amassed 953 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns this season. A two-time 1,000-yard rusher, Mixon played a key role in Cincinnati’s Week 3 win over the Steelers, rushing for 90 yards on 18 carries. He could be in for an even bigger game against Pittsburgh’s considerably thin defensive line. The onus of stopping Mixon will fall on Cam Heyward, who despite consistent double-teams is having an All-Pro level season.
The Bengals are favored and for good reason. They have a significant advantage on the defensive line, and Burrow has already proven that he can get the better of Pittsburgh’s defense. But the Steelers have historically been able to rise to the occasion in similar situations under head coach Mike Tomlin, while the Bengals have yet to prove that they can win a big game late in the season. Pittsburgh will likely mimic the game plan they took with them to Cleveland back in Week 8, when they shut down Cleveland’s offense while leaning on a balanced offensive attack to get a much-needed road victory. Expect a similar result Sunday in Cincinnati.
Score: Steelers 20, Bengals 17