This upcoming Week 16 game for the Pittsburgh Steelers has “do-or-die” written all over it. The Steelers are currently one game behind their next opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, for the final wildcard spot in the AFC. A win for Pittsburgh means that they will have a chance at the postseason going into the final week of the regular season. A loss will bring their season to a screeching halt.
One thing that will be a determining factor against the Bengals is Pittsburgh’s pass defense. Unfortunately, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor will be sidelined for the third consecutive week with a fractured ankle. Taylor’s presence will definitely be missed, considering the fact that in Week 7 Taylor held Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green to just one reception for eight yards (albeit the one catch was for a touchdown).
Green is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards with 1,208 and his 11 receiving touchdowns are tops in the NFL. The Steelers are left with cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen to try to contain Green in the passing game.
Lewis left last week’s game with a hip injury and is expected to be ready for this week. Allen missed last week’s game with a hip flexor, and is expected to suit up also.
Although Pittsburgh has displayed the best pass defense in the league virtually all season, the secondary has had their share of problems since Taylor’s injury. In Week 14, the Steelers surrendered three touchdown passes, and in the following week allowed 341 passing yards and two touchdowns.
In order to keep their depth in the secondary from getting too thin, the Steelers have just signed cornerback Justin King to the active roster. This move was made after Pittsburgh placed fellow cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke on the injured/reserved list with a shoulder injury.
The only thing that will give Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield a fighting chance against Green and the Bengals’ passing attack is the steady improvement of the Steelers’ pass rush. Pittsburgh has recorded 11 sacks in their last five games, which is almost half of their season total.
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