In the final week of the season, the Steelers and Bengals will meet, in all likelihood, with AFC North division title on the line.
After week 15, Cincinnati leads the division at 9-4-1. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are both half a game back at 9-5, but the Steelers own the tiebreaker with the Ravens. If the Bengals and/or Steelers can muster a win in week 16, they will also take the AFC North title with another win in week 17.
Cincinnati has been in the playoffs three straight seasons, but have yet to win a game in the NFL’s second season. The Steelers are seeking their first postseason berth since dropping a Wild Card game to Denver in overtime during the 2011 season.
When these teams met at Paul Brown Stadium in week 14, the Steelers scored 25 unanswered fourth quarter points in a 42-21 win. Pittsburgh outgained Cincinnati 543-408 yards including a 193-86 advantage on the ground. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 185 yards and two majors on 26 carries, and the Steelers went eight for 16 on third down while holding Cincinnati to three of 11. The Bengals committed the only two turnovers of the game and were penalized seven times to just three for Pittsburgh.
Unlike last year (when the Bengals went undefeated at Paul Brown Stadium), Cincinnati has been better on the road this season than at home. The Bengals are 5-2 outside of the Queen City and 4-3 against the spread. They’ve won four straight road games including a 30-0 takedown of Johnny Manziel and the Browns in week 15. They also won at New Orleans (27-10), Houston (22-13), and Tampa Bay (14-13) from weeks 11-13 after opening the year with a win at Baltimore (23-16). The Bengals two road losses were absolute duds, though. They were routed in New England (43-17) in week 5 and shutout in Indianapolis (27-0) in week 7.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are 4-2 at home and 3-3 against the spread entering a week 16 clash with Kansas City. Pittsburgh has won three straight road games, but lost their only home game during a five week span – 35-32 to New Orleans in week 13. The Steelers won three straight home games during the middle of the season against Houston, Indianapolis, and Baltimore, after opening the year with a home win over Cleveland. Pittsburgh suffered arguably its worst loss of the season in week 4 when they let two-win Tampa Bay escape Heinz Field with a 27-24 win.
Pittsburgh has gotten the better of Cincinnati recently, winning two straight and six the last eight; the Steelers have also taken three of four and five of seven against the Bengals in the Steel City.
(Photo credit: By SteelCityHobbies (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)