In order to have any chance of a division championship this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers must come away with a victory this coming Sunday night when they go on the road to face the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals.
I mentioned in an earlier article that Pittsburgh’s offensive line would set the tone for this week’s game, as well as decide how the rest of the season will go. Equally as important is the Steelers’ defense.
Unlike Pittsburgh’s offense, the defense isn’t as scared by injury. Offensive linemen Marcus Gilbert and Maurkice Pouncey, and running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman are expected not to play this week.
On the defensive side, safety Troy Polamalu will miss his fourth game of the season with a right calf injury, and linebacker Chris Carter will be sidelined with a hamstring injury.
The presence of Polamalu and Carter will definitely be missed. However, the return of linebacker LaMarr Woodley should help tremendously.
Pittsburgh’s defense has been lacking in the turnover department all season, only corralling two interceptions. Having Woodley and fellow linebacker James Harrison in the lineup together should work to the advantage of the Steelers versus a Cincinnati offensive line that has surrendered the fourth most sacks in the NFL (17).
Pittsburgh’s defense showed some signs of life with their pass rush in last week’s defeat to the Tennessee Titans with Harrison, Larry Foote, and Jason Worilds all recording a sack.
This much-needed pressure from the front seven should force Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to add to the nine interceptions that he’s thrown this season.
As important as the Steelers’ offensive line is to the team’s ultimate success for the season, the defense’s production in this week’s game will be of vast importance as well. Even though Polamalu isn’t playing, having a strong defensive front spearheaded by Harrison and Woodley should work heavily in the favor of the Steelers. This should help take away some of the pressure that will be put upon the battered offensive line.
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