The two meetings last year between the Cincinnati Bengals and rival Pittsburgh Steelers were relatively calm compared to other times when penalties, fights and trash talk overshadowed the games.
One element of tension from the past won’t be a factor at all this time.
Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell continues to sit out over a contract dispute and isn’t planning to play until after next week’s bye. That removes one obstacle for the Bengals, who are 1-6 against Bell and have only once held him under 100 yards of offense.
Now, if only there was a way to keep Ben Roethlisberger off the field.
The Steelers (2-2-1) got off to a slow start to the season but bring the momentum of a 41-27 win over Atlanta, and regardless of the records, Pittsburgh often has a way of frustrating the Bengals. The Steelers own a 62-35 advantage in the all-time series and have won six straight and nine of the last 10.
Roethlisberger is 21-7 against the Bengals since coming into the league in 2004. In a 23-20 win at Paul Brown Stadium last year, he threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and one sack. In the game at Pittsburgh, a 29-14 win, the Miami University grad threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, posted a 117.4 passer rating and wasn’t sacked.
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This season, Roethlisberger is the league’s third-leading passer with 1,664 yards and 11 touchdowns with six interceptions. Top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has 450 yards and two touchdowns and Antonio Brown adds 373 yards and five touchdowns.
Brown became the source of headlines Tuesday when it became public that he now faces two $15,000 lawsuits from an April incident during which the All-Pro receiver allegedly yelled at security and threw items from a South Florida apartment off a balcony. The incident is not expected to impact his playing time Sunday, and Pittsburgh will bring him and plenty of other offensive weapons to Paul Brown Stadium.
James Conner, a third-round draft pick last year, has 342 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 68.4 yards per game, in Bell’s absence.
Both teams are among the highest-scoring in the league, the Steelers ranking one spot behind the Bengals at fifth with 28.6 points per game but sitting way ahead in net offense with 405.0 yards per game. Pittsburgh’s defense ranks 25th while allowing 26.6 points per game and 29th in yards allowed (401.2).
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Defensively, the Steelers are led by Jon Bostic (23 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and T.J. Watt (19 tackles, six sacks). Linebacker Ryan Shazier, who suffered a tragic spinal injury in the December matchup in Cincinnati, continues his recovery and is out for the season, possibly for good. Shazier, a product of Ohio State University, immediately clutched his back after leading with his helmet on a tackle of Josh Malone and had to be transported to the hospital. He just began walking without assistance this summer.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis grew up in McDonald, Pa., near Pittsburgh. Lewis’ first NFL coaching job was with the Steelers as linebackers coach from 1992-95 under head coach Bill Cowher. He also coached at the University of Pittsburgh from 1990-91. … Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was defensive backs coach for the University of Cincinnati from 1999-2000. … Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is from Findlay and played at Miami (Ohio) University. … Bengals WR Tyler Boyd is from Clairton, Pa., and played at the University of Pittsburgh. … Steelers DT Cameron Heyward and LB Ryan Shazier (Reserve/PUP) played at Ohio State University. … Steelers LB L.J. Fort spent time on the Bengals practice squad in 2014. … Bengals K Randy Bullock was with the Steelers in 2016. … Steelers FB Roosevelt Nix is from Reynoldsburg. … Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt is from Pittsburgh and played for the Steelers from 1989-92. … Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett is from Pittsburgh, played at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and coached for the Steelers from 1997-99. … Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes grew up in South Fayette, Pa. and played TE for the Steelers from 1994-96. … Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is from Sharon, Pa., played at the University of Pittsburgh and coached at Penn State University. … Bengals defensive assistant/assistant defensive line coach Matt Raich is from Monaca, Pa., played (1989-92) and coached (1993-94) at Westminster College, and coached at Robert Morris University (1996-98, 2000-02), Glenville State College (1999) and Duquesne University (2013). Raich was also on the Steelers’ coaching staff from 2003-06. … Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is from Scranton, Pa. … Bengals CB C.J. Goodwin (practice squad) entered the NFL as a college free agent signee of Pittsburgh in 2014, and was with the team through ’15 preseason. Goodwin played at California (Pa.) University. … Bengals QB Christian Hackenberg (practice squad) and LB Brandon Bell (practice squad) played at Penn State University. … Bengals strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton coached at Penn State from 1987- 91.
AFC NORTH OUTLOOK
Baltimore Ravens (3-2): The Ravens are coming off a 12-9 overtime loss at Cleveland and looking to rebound at Tennessee on Sunday.
Cleveland Browns (2-2-1): The Browns carry the momentum of an overtime win against the Ravens into Sunday’s game against the Chargers. Baker Mayfield overcame five sacks to throw for 342 yards against Baltimore.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1): The Steelers are coming of fa 41-27 win over Atlanta and travel to face the Bengals on Sunday.
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