Opponent Breakdown: Cincinnati Bengals

A look at what the Steelers will be up against on Sunday afternoon at the Cincinnati Bengals:


LINE DECLINE:** The problems the Bengals have experienced up front on the way to 5-7-1 begin but don't end with 2015 No. 1 pick Cedric Ogbuehi, who started the first 11 games at right tackle but has since been switched to backup left tackle.

Ogbuehi's replacement, veteran Eric Winston, has allowed two sack/fumbles in the past two games.

Jake Fisher (secind round, 2015) rotates in at right tackle and is susceptible to being overpowered physically.

Left tackle, Andrew Whitworth hasn't matched his first-team All-Pro form from a season ago and has been flagged repeatedly for holding.

And center Russell Bodine has had some trouble with shotgun snaps that have either been delivered on the ground or when quarterback Andy Dalton wasn't expecting them.

THE EIFERT TOWER: After some early-season injury issues, tight end Tyler Eifert has resumed finding the end zone.

Eifert has 28 receptions for 385 yards and five touchdowns on the season. He has four scoring catches in the last three games, all in the red zone, including two in last Sunday's 23-10 win at Cleveland. Eifert has18 receiving TDs since the start of the 2015 season, the most among NFL tight ends. Eifert didn't play in the Steelers' 24-16 victory over the Bengals on Sept. 18 at Heinz Field.


THE BURFICT STORM:** Linebacker Vontaze Burfict also missed the first game between the Steelers and the Bengals (three-game suspension). He's been making up for lost time ever since and leads Cincinnati in solo tackles (71) and total tackles (92).

Burfict had 15 tackles and two interceptions in a 32-14 win over Philadelphia on Dec. 4. When at his best he's a menace, one that's capable of blitzing, covering, stuffing the run and other such physical dominance. Burfict has incurred just one penalty this season but there's still an edge to his game.

DALTON'S DILEMMA: Dalton has thrown a career-low six interceptions (seven last season) but he's also thrown a career-low 16 touchdown passes (19 in 2014). He's been operating an offense that lacked Eifert's presence early and of late has been without wide receiver A.J. Green (hamstring) and third-down back Giovani Bernard (Reserve/Injured). Dalton has also been sacked 36 times (up from 20 a season ago). All the pressures and hits are seemingly adding up and compelling Dalton to get the ball out of the pocket quickly, even if he's just throwing it away. His passer rating has slipped from 106.2 in 2015 to 93.8 this season.


TWIN TERRORS:** The Bengals aren't as deep along the defensive line as they were a season ago but tackle Geno Atkins and end Carlos Dunlap remain as good a tandem as there is in the league. Dunlap has seven sacks and he's used his 6-foot-6, 280-pound frame and wingspan to account for 14 passes defensed. Atkins has six-and-a-half sacks, including two on consecutive snaps in the fourth quarter against Cleveland.

DOWN HILL: Running back Jeremy Hill (6-1, 235) averages 4.0 yards per carry and has 788 yards (six fewer than last season) and eight rushing TDs (three fewer than last season's league-leading 11). Hill doesn't run hard all the time but he also hasn't fumbled (apparently, Hill took letting the ball get away from him late against the Steelers in the playoffs last January to heart). His role hasn't increased since Bernard was lost for the season on Nov. 20 against Buffalo.

The Bengals have instead turned to Rex Burkhead as the third-down/complement back. He can run, catch and block but lacks breakaway speed.

VERTICAL LIMIT: The Bengals have also lacked speed at wide receiver since Green was injured two snaps into the Buffalo game (there aren't many who can get down the field and go up and get it the way Green can). Dalton's longest completion against Cleveland was a short pass to Hill that turned into an 18-yard gain. Tyler Boyd (48 catches, 526 yards, one TD) is a move-the-chains, competitive-catch receiver. Sixth-round pick Cody Core (6-3, 207) has 4.46 speed (the best of the rest after Green at the position among Bengals) but he only has three catches (for 66 yards, 22.0 average).

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