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The Steelers are back to work as they prepare for a huge AFC North showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
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The Steelers were on an 11-game winning streak, but Cincinnati has won the last two matchups, including a 24-10 victory in Week 3. The matchup before that also favored the Bengals, a 27-17 Steelers loss in Cincinnati last year. Still, Cincinnati has won just 11 of the 45 games between these divisional rivals that have been played in the 2000s. This series began in 1970 and Pittsburgh leads the series 67-37. Two of those games occurred in the post season, in 2006 and 2016, with the Steelers winning both contests.
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field
The Season so Far
- The Steelers faced Cincinnati in Week 3 and ran 77 plays in that game against just 42 by the Bengals offense, but Pittsburgh still lost 24-10. The Bengals averaged 6.4 yards per play and Pittsburgh averaged just 4.4. Both teams were penalized 10 times, for a total of 162 penalty yards.
- The Bengals' +52-point differential is the best in the AFC North and fourth best in the AFC. Pittsburgh's -12-point differential is worst in the division and 10th in the conference. Of all the teams with a winning record currently, Pittsburgh is the only team with a negative point differential.
- Cincinnati's offense averages 5.8 yards per snap, the exact same amount as the Steelers allow. The Steelers offense averages 5.0 yards per play while Cincinnati's defense allows 5.6.
- Last week, the Bengals possessed the football for 37:20 and were only penalized once for five yards. Before that game, the Bengals ranked 27th in time of possession. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh now are in the middle of the league with possession of the football, but the Bengals opponents have committed 33 more penalties for 266 more yards than Cincinnati-both of those numbers are the highest in the NFL. The Steelers are fourth best in net penalty yards and seventh best in penalty differential.
- These two teams are nearly identical with all their turnover numbers in each category, but Cincinnati has thrown 11 interceptions against just five by the Steelers. Only Ryan Tannehill has thrown more interceptions this year than Joe Burrow.
- Joe Mixon and Najee Harris are two of the four running backs in the league with 180 carries or more along with Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor.
- Pittsburgh's opponents are averaging 4.8 yards per rushing attempt. The Steelers offense is only producing 3.7 yards per attempt on the ground.
- On a yards per route run basis, Ja'Marr Chase is producing 2.5 yards every time he runs a pass route. Chase's teammates, Tee Higgins sits at 1.69 and Tyler Boyd at 1.49. As for the Steelers top two wide outs, Diontae Johnson produces 2.13 yards every time he goes out on a route while Chase Claypool is at 1.91. Chase averages 18.4 yards per reception. That is right at the top of the league. Higgins is at 12.1 and Boyd is at 10.4. Claypool averages 15.5 yards per reception. Johnson is at 12.1.
When Pittsburgh has the Ball
- When these teams met in Week 3, Roethlisberger attempted 58 passes. He threw for 318 yards, but also threw two interceptions (both to Logan Wilson) against just one touchdown. Najee Harris could only accumulate 40 rushing yards on his 14 attempts and was the only running back to carry the ball in this game. But this was also the game in which Harris caught 14 passes for 102 yards. Chase Claypool chipped in with nine receptions for 96 yards. Pittsburgh possessed the football for 35:22 in that game.
- Although Cincinnati's defense was excellent last week against the Raiders, this unit allowed 75 points to the Jets and Browns in the Bengals previous two games.
- The Bengals held Derek Carr to just 80 passing yards during the Raiders first seven possessions. The Raiders converted just one third down attempt in that game.
- Pittsburgh utilizes 11 Personnel (1 RB/ 1 TE) 71% of the time. League average is 59%. From this personnel grouping, the Steelers run the football just 29% of the time. Pittsburgh runs the ball 61% of their snaps from 12 Personnel (1 RB/2 TE), which they employ 19% of their offensive snaps.
- Najee Harris is averaging 3.5 yards per carry, including 2.7 rushing yards after contact. As a pass catcher, Harris averages 6.9 yards per reception. Harris has played 591 snaps in his rookie season. Pittsburgh's next most used running back is a 50-snap tie between Benny Snell and Kalen Ballage. Collectively, Pittsburgh's running backs are only gaining .83 yards before first contact, which is 30th in the league. Harris' 59 yards from scrimmage last week was his lowest total since Week 1. His 23.7 touches per game is second most in the league. He was targeted 19 times against the Bengals earlier this year, which is the most any player in the NFL has been targeted in a game this season. In fact, Cincinnati has allowed the most receptions to opposing running backs of any defense in the league.
- Cincinnati's defense surrenders just 98 rushing yards per game. Only the Buccaneers, Ravens, Saints, and Titans are better. The Steelers are producing 90.7 yards on the ground per game. The only reams producing fewer are the Texans, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets, and Raiders.
- The Bengals opponents are only running the ball on 36.7% of the snaps. Just three defenses are seeing running plays at them at a less clip.
- Claypool played 91% of the snaps on Sunday night. He has gotten multiple rushing attempts in three straight games. With Johnson sidelined, Claypool was targeted 15 times when these teams met in Week 3. Johnson and Claypool have combined to play seven games against Cincinnati in their careers. They have produced 39 catches for 487 yards and five touchdowns against the Bengals. Johnson has seen exactly 13 targets in five of his last seven games.
- Since Week 6, Pat Freiermuth is averaging 7.4 targets per game. That ranks sixth amongst all NFL tight ends in that stretch. He's been targeted at least six times in all five of those games. Freiermuth also has four touchdowns in his last four games.
- Last week, Roethlisberger attempted 44 passes. That is the most attempts for him since…Week 3 against the Bengals when Roethlisberger threw the ball 58 times.
- When the Steelers are in the red zone, they pass the ball 61.5% of the time. That is the fourth highest in the NFL.
- Roethlisberger averages 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Of quarterbacks that have attempted 300 passes or more this year, only Trevor Lawrence (6.0), Jared Goff (6.3), and Sam Darnold (6.5) are lower.
- Vonn Bell leads all Bengals defenders with 640 snaps played out of a possible 666. The others near the top of that list are Eli Apple (612), Logan Wilson (589), and Jessie Bates (585). Bates did miss one game. The Bengals have four interior defensive linemen that have logged between 254 and 463 snaps. Chidobe Awuzie never left the field last week in Las Vegas and Mike Hilton was only on the sidelines for three snaps.
- The Bengals defense averages 2.5 sacks per game. Only seven defenses produce more. Pittsburgh's offense gives up just 2.1 sacks per game, which 16th. Trey Hendrickson has the most sacks this year for the Bengals with 9.5, which is ninth most in the league. Sam Hubbard's six sacks is currently tied for 19th most in the league. Hendrickson has at least one sack in six straight games, the longest active streak of its kind in the NFL.
When Cincinnati has the Ball
- Cincinnati only runs 61 plays per game on average. That is the 28th most in the league. They are 31st in plays run per minute of play. They did snap the ball 70 times against the Raiders last week though.
- The Bengals are generating .439 points every time they snap the ball. The only teams better are Tampa Bay (.465), Buffalo (.448), and Indianapolis (.447). A big reason for this is Cincinnati's efficiency in the red zone. The Bengals score a touchdown 69.2% of the time that they get into the red zone. That also is fourth best in the league. Pittsburgh's red zone defense is fourth in the NFL. They only allow a touchdown 48.5% of the time.
- However, the Bengals have scored 14 offensive touchdowns from outside the red zone. That is the most in the league.
- In Week 3, Joe Burrow only threw for 172 yards, but Joe Mixon rushed for 90 yards. The Steelers didn't sack Burrow once. Last week against Las Vegas, Burrow threw for just 148 yards, but Mixon rushed for 123. In the first half of last week's game, Mixon averaged just 2.4 yards per carry, but 5.1 after halftime.
- Last week was the only game of Burrow's career that the Bengals offense produced more yards on the ground than through the air. They averaged 4.2 yards per play when they ran it and 4.0 when they threw it against the Raiders.
- Burrow has thrown for at least 250 yards in six of his last seven games.
- Burrow's splits vs. the blitz as opposed a standard four-man rush are interesting. When facing five or more pass-rushers this year, Burrow is completing 70.1% of his passes for a 11.3 yards per attempt and an average depth of target of 10.1. He has thrown eight touchdowns against three interceptions when blitzed. Against four or fewer pass-rushers, Burrow completes 67.6% of his passes with a 7.4 yards per attempt. His average depth of target is 8.3 and Burrow has thrown 13 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Without TJ Watt in the lineup, the Steelers blitzed Burrow on 31.6% of his dropbacks in Week 3. For the season, Pittsburgh is blitzing just 18.5% of the time. Only four defenses are blitzing less. Burrow averaged 9.6 yards per attempt and completed 77.8% of his passes against the Steelers with three touchdowns against one interception, but only attempted 18 passes in that winning effort.
- Mixon has a streak of seven games going in which he has found the end zone, the second longest streak in the league right now. Mixon has six touchdowns in his last three games. His nine rushing touchdowns are the fourth most in the league even though Cincinnati has already had their bye week. Mixon touches the ball 20.2 times per game, but in six games this year, Mixon has gotten targeted two or fewer times. Last week he wasn't targeted and against Pittsburgh earlier in the year, Mixon was thrown to just once. The Steelers have only given up 42 receptions to opposing running backs. Three defenses have given up fewer. Mixon only receives just 48% of the Bengals running back targets.
- The Steelers are now allowing 126.6 rushing yards per game, which is the seventh most in the league. Only one defense is allowing more runs per game of 10 or more yards. Pittsburgh gives up 4.1 of such runs per game. Only the Vikings and Jets allow more rushing yards before contact than Pittsburgh.
- Chase hasn't surpassed 49 receiving yards in any of his past three games. But the rookie receiver has demanded a 20% or better target share in eight straight games now. In Weeks 1-7, Chase was 9 of 14 on targets of 20 yards or further. Since then, he has zero catches on seven such targets.
- Higgins was targeted on just 10.7% of Cincinnati's pass attempts last week, his lowest percentage of the season. But Higgins was in the game for 91.4% of the Bengals pass plays, which is his highest rate of the year. Higgins has 75 or more receiving yards in two of his past three games.
- Burrow is completing 68.3% of his pass attempts. The quarterbacks completing passes at a higher rate are Kyler Murray, Mac Jones, Dak Prescott, and Teddy Bridgewater. Burrow's 8.4 yards per pass attempt is second best in the NFL behind only Murray.
- Cincinnati is using 12 Personnel (1 RB/2 TE) 20% of the time. While that is still under league average, that usage is up from recent years. When the Bengals use 12 Personnel, they run the ball on 70% of their snaps. But it is still 11 Personnel (1 RB/ 1 TE) that is Cincinnati's primary personnel grouping by a wide margin. The Bengals use 11 Personnel on 71% of their snaps. League average is 59%. Cincinnati only runs the ball on 34% of their snaps out of 11 Personnel.
- The Bengals have run 635 offensive plays in 2021. Jonah Williams and Quinton Spain have yet to miss a snap. Fellow offensive linemen Riley Reiff is right behind those two at 626 and Trey Hopkins has logged 609 snaps. As for Cincinnati's wide receivers, Chase has been on the field for 560 snaps compared to 472 for Boyd and 389 for Higgins, who missed two games.
- Isaiah Buggs, Henry Mondeaux, and Isaiahh Loudermilk have logged between 113 and 227 snaps this year along the defensive line.
- On average, Pittsburgh's defense racks up 2.8 sacks per game, which is the fourth most in the league. The Bengals allow 2.8 sacks per game. Only four offenses allow more. TJ Watt's 12.5 sacks is still the second most in the NFL despite Watt only playing eight games. Watt has at least a sack in each of his past five meetings against Cincinnati but was inactive when these teams met in Week 3. Only one quarterback this year has been sacked more often than Burrow.
- When the Bengals are losing on the scoreboard, they are the third heaviest offense in the league with calling run plays.
- The Bengals have excelled on special teams during the Zac Taylor era. In last week's victory, rookie kicker Evan McPherson made all four of his kicks from distances of 54, 53, 51 and 47 yards.
- The Bengals average starting field position is the fifth best in the league, starting their average drive on the 29.66-yard line. Pittsburgh starts its average drive on the 26.46-yard line, which ranks 28th.
- Cincinnati's average punt return yields 10 yards. Their opponents' for the season is just 7.9.
The Advanced Scout Podcast
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Matt's Most Memorable Moment: December 31, 2006: Steelers 23, Bengals 17 (OT)
Coming into this final game of the 2006 regular season, the Bengals needed to win this game to get into the post season while the Steelers were out of the playoff race. This was Bill Cowher's final game as the Steelers head coach and he produced a great quote, "Let me just say this. Misery loves company. And we're looking for company." Well, Cowher got his wish as his Steelers took Cincinnati to the wire and kept the divisional rival out of the playoffs. Two great quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, battled it out and got 134 rushing yards from Willie Parker on 34 carries. In overtime, Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes on a quick slant that Holmes took to the house to crush Cincinnati's post season dreams.
Facts from NFL Research
- The Bengals have not won both games against the Steelers in a season since 2009.
- Ben Roethlisberger is 4-1 in his last 5 starts
- With a 90+ passer rating in each of his last 5 games
- Roethlisberger is 26-9 with 8,568 pass yards & 50 passing touchdowns in his career vs the Bengals (including playoffs).
- That's the most QB wins, passing yards & passing touchdowns by any player vs Cincinnati all-time.
- Najee Harris is the first Steelers rookie with 1,000+ scrimmage yards and 7+ total touchdowns in their first 10 career games since 1970.
- Bengals LT Jonah Williams vs. Steelers OLB Alex Highsmith-With TJ Watt sidelined last week, the Steelers lined Highsmith up on the defense's left side quite a bit. That gave Highsmith a better one on one matchup against the Chargers right tackle. Highsmith finished the night with a sack and a half. Highsmith has been excellent setting the edge in the run game but has done his best work as a pass-rusher against weaker offensive tackles. This week Highsmith gets Williams, Cincinnati's best offensive lineman. Expect the Bengals to leave Williams alone much of the time to dedicate extra attention to Watt.
- Steelers OC Kendrick Green vs. Bengals Defensive Tackles-The Bengals go four deep at defensive tackle. And it is a potent rotation. Expect Cincinnati to keep changing players up front to attack different weaknesses in the Steelers interior offensive line. A weakness that is becoming very apparent is Green's ability to handle massive power players lined up right over him on the nose. The Bengals will use a variety of players here in different down and distance situations, but DJ Reader is the prototypical pure nose tackle type that is proving to be a very difficult challenge for Green. Reader is having an excellent season and Green will have to move him off the line of scrimmage on early down and distance situations for the Steelers to have a potent interior running game.