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Pittsburgh Steelers’ 5 Keys to Victory vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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Pittsburgh Steelers' 5 Keys to Victory vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in dire straits, and that is putting it nicely. If the Steelers lose another game then their thoughts of even sniffing January football will be thrown out the door. However, there is still that tiny chance that all the pieces of the puzzle will come together for the Steelers and they might get the opportunity to play in the playoffs.

Regardless of the playoff scenarios and the remaining schedule, one thing that will always be a factor is that this game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals is an AFC North Rivalry that has certainly heated up throughout the years.

Think back to how this rivalry has heated up over the last 10 years. Fingers could be pointed to the AFC wild card game that saw Carson Palmer go down with a knee injury while the Bengals watched the Steelers be the first team to enter the playoffs as a sixth seed and win a Super Bowl that ignited a rivalry that hasn't been as lopsided as the overall record between these two teams dating back to 1970.

The Steelers had to watch the Bengals come into Pittsburgh last year and end their season at Heinz Field in front of their home crowd. Although there isn't as much significance for this matchup on Sunday night, it is a grudge match that will be renewed for the second and final time this season.

The Steelers need a win to snap their current two-game losing streak and to keep their minute playoff hopes alive. Here are the five keys to victory for the Steelers as the Bengals travel to Pittsburgh in hopes of burying their AFC North rival.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+

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5. Lock Down Special Teams

Pittsburgh Steelers
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have been abnormally bad in the special teams category this season. Whether it was the Jacoby Jones sideline incident on a huge return by the Ravens, the Shaun Suisham "false start" the same game against the Ravens, or even the blocked punt last week against the Dolphins. Say what you want, but special teams has been a huge issue for the Steelers this year.

Not only are they making mistakes, but they are also not springing big returns and splash plays either. If the Steelers expect to win this game Sunday and keep their playoff hopes alive they need to be sure that they play solid special teams in all phases: kicking, punting and returning. Not giving up the big play that gives the Bengals momentum on special teams is a step towards victory for the Steelers.

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4. Contain AJ Green

Pittsburgh Steelers
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers' defense is not necessarily the Steel Curtain of the 1970s. It isn't even the defense of last season as the Steelers are giving up yards on the ground at an alarming rate. The Bengals' running game is something that certainly can be effective, but when plays need to be made Andy Dalton turns to AJ Green.

The Steelers usually deploy Ike Taylor to mirror the opponent's best wide receiver, but against the Dolphins Taylor stayed on the right side and Cortez Allen stayed on the left. That was a clear sign that the Steelers did not want Taylor matched up against Mike Wallace and his speed. I would expect the Steelers to have a similar game plan against AJ Green, and when your starting safety Troy Polamalu needs to remain at the linebacker position it makes your secondary vulnerable to the big play.

AJ Green is turning into a receiver that cannot be stopped but merely contained.

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3. Bring Down Big Red

Pittsburgh Steelers
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers deployed Lamarr Woodley on the right outside linebacker position against the Dolphins, and Woodley was invisible for nearly the entire game. Jason Worilds is a player that has made plays from the left side, and I would assume that the Steelers will keep Worilds on that side.

Mike Tomlin talked at his weekly press conference about deploying Jarvis Jones, Lamarr Woodley and Jason Worilds in sub packages where all three linebackers are on the field at the same time. Whatever needs to happen for the Steelers to get to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is what needs to be deployed this Sunday.

If the Steelers can get to Dalton and put pressure on the young signal caller, they have a higher chance of taking advantage of potential mistakes that could swing the outcome of the game.

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2. Be Dynamic

Pittsburgh Steelers
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers want to have a running game, and that is difficult for the team that ranks amongst the lowest in the NFL in terms of running the ball week in and week out. As important as the running game is, being dynamic on offense is another.

Todd Haley's offense is built around the short pass and quick hitting plays that will move the chains. However, last week the Steelers were unable to complete a pass thrown over 20 yards throughout four quarters of football. The Steelers have playmakers on offense and they need to utilize them. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller and Jerricho Cotchery all can be used within the passing game to not only open up running lanes but also keep the offense dynamic and unpredictable.

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1. Pound the Rock

Pittsburgh Steelers
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have not run the ball well this year; that is very well documented. Even though they started the game just the way they wanted to against the Miami Dolphins last week rushing for over 50 yards in the first half, for some reason as successful as Le'Veon Bell was running the ball the Steelers got away from running the ball in the second half.

The Steelers do not want to get into a shootout with the high powered Bengals offense, and although the Steelers offense can score that is not the best recipe to success for Pittsburgh. The best course of action is running the football, controlling the clock, and putting together time consuming drives that finish with touchdowns.