Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/4/11
GAME SNAPSHOT KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET GAMEDATE: 12411 SURFACE: Natural grass PREDICTION: Bengals 23-20 KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bengals lost top CB Leon Hall in the first meeting, a 24-17 Steelers win on Nov. 13, and will be taxed by three- and four-receiver sets. However, the Steelers' offensive line lacks great athleticism, making it difficult to gain yards on the ground outside the tackles and allowing defenses to hone in on QB Ben Roethlisberger, who has a 42.8 completion percentage on third down the past three games. Bengals QB Andy Dalton continues to display excellent poise while continually playing from behind, although he did throw a pair of late picks in the first meeting that thwarted a comeback bid. Coach Marvin Lewis wants his offense to be more aggressive toward the end of the first half - the Bengals have been outscored 65-31 in the second quarter this season. FAST FACTS: One game separates the top three teams in the AFC North. ... The Bengals have tied an NFL record with three wins this season after trailing by at least 10 points at halftime. INSIDE THE CAMPSBengals The Bengals' secondary has been adjusting to the loss of Leon Hall for the past two games. They might be in bigger trouble on Sunday for the rematch in Pittsburgh. Cornerback Nate Clements tweaked his hamstring during Thursday's practice and was limited. Adam Jones just got back to 100 percent after being hampered by hamstring and groin injuries. Depending on Clements' health, Brandon Ghee could see playing time at corner. Since being signed to the 53-man roster after Hall's season-ending Achilles injury, Ghee has been used on special teams but was also limited in practice due to a groin injury. If Clements would be ruled inactive or was limited in the game, that would give a big advantage to the Steelers, who can stretch the field with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. If the Bengals are low on corners, safeties Chris Crocker and Gibril Wilson could play slot corner in nickel packages. The Bengals enter the game ranked fifth in the league in total defense but have dropped to 11th in pass defense. They went into the bye week giving up just 189 passing yards per game but in the five games since then have given up 246.2. One of the big reasons for the huge jump is the Bengals have allowed 18 pass plays of 20 yards or more during that span compared to just 13 in the first six games. Steelers In the midst of one of its least productive pass rush defenses in a generation, the Steelers will welcome back linebacker LaMarr Woodley for Sunday's game against Cincinnati in Heinz Field. Woodley, who was leading the AFC halfway through the season with nine sacks, missed the past three games over a four-week period with a hamstring injury. He has practiced all this week and is expected to play against the Bengals. The Steelers have managed only 24 sacks, on pace for 35, which would tie their lowest total since they finished the 1990 season with just 34. They had 48 last season when Woodley and James Harrison combined for 20.5. The two outside linebackers have missed seven games between them with injuries. Despite the lack of sacks, the Steelers have the second-ranked defense in yards allowed in the NFL and they stand 8-3, tied for the best record in the AFC. They also have had trouble getting turnovers this season; however, even though they had just one sack in their past two games, they came up with five turnovers -- after getting only four through the first nine games. "The one sack I missed in Kansas City, he ended up throwing a pick," linebacker James Harrison noted. "If I get that sack, we don't get the pick. Sometimes it's better to get pressure." The Steelers won in Cincinnati Nov. 13 even though they did not sack rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. They had one sack in a victory last week in Kansas City. Part of the reason for the sacks, players say, are quarterbacks intent on quicker releases and the Steelers sending fewer blitzes because of it. Against Dalton, for example, they spent much of the time on defense rushing just three and dropping eight. PERSONNEL NEWSBengals --RB Cedric Benson did not practice for a second straight day due to a foot injury but he is expected to play against the Steelers. --DT Domata Peko did not practice due to a foot injury but he is expected to start. Peko also did not practice two days last week and ended up playing. --DT Pat Sims was limited for a second straight day due to a foot injury but is expected to be active on Sunday. --DE Carlos Dunlap is not expected to play for the third time in the last four games due to a nagging hamstring injury. --CB Adam Jones could return punts against the Steelers but a lot of it depends on the health of the secondary. Steelers --QB Ben Roethlisberger hit his right hand on a helmet throwing a pass in practice Thursday and bowed out early. He and his coaches say he should be OK. Roethlisberger played last week with a splint and a glove to protect a broken right thumb. --SS Troy Polamalu returned to practice Thursday for the first time this week after leaving the game in Kansas City during the first series with "concussion-like symptoms." Polamalu has passed all his concussion tests this week. --C Maurkice Pouncey returned to a partial practice Thursday, 10 pounds lighter as the result of a severe stomach virus that knocked him out of last Sunday's game after 18 plays. Pouncey said he lost 12 pounds, and has gained two back. He is expected to play. --WR Emmanuel Sanders, who returned to play last week after missing two games with a knee injury, missed practice Thursday with an unspecified foot injury. Sanders practiced Wednesday. His status is uncertain. --LB Larry Foote, who alternates at inside linebacker with James Farrior, has a hamstring injury that has limited him through the first two days of practice this week. He is likely to play.
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