Dec 16, 2013 at 1.30am UK at ​Heinz Field
Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell (9:58), Brown (2:16, 1:12)
Bernard (5:14)
Eifert (14:09), Jones (5:46)

Game of the Week Analysis: Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Sports Mole analyses the AFC North divisional clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers face off on Sunday Night Football in a typical AFC North grudge match.

The balance of power has shifted in the division over the past few years as the Steelers' dominance has been replaced by the Baltimore Ravens, and this season by the Bengals.

Marvin Lewis's side can wrap up their place in the AFC playoffs with a win over Pittsburgh on Sunday night and a defeat to Baltimore a day later, as they will seal the North Division crown.

It will be quite an achievement for the Bengals, who are looking for their first division win since the 2009 season and only their third of the decade.

Much will rest on the arm of quarterback Andy Dalton, who is again proving to be inconsistent in his third year in the NFL.

However, last time out he showed his mettle against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts with a three-touchdown performance in his side's 42-28 victory.

The 26-year-old will need to continue that form against the 13th-ranked overall Steelers defense, who have also had their struggles this year.

Dalton's main problem during his career has been turnovers and tracking the Bengals' season, in their four defeats this season the quarterback has indeed thrown interceptions, and more often than not multiple ones.

Despite having the 15th-ranked rushing attack in the NFL, Dalton is in the top 10 of passing attempts. That is where mistakes can come in if you are not deadly accurate with the ball, but fortunately for the Bengals and Dalton they boast one of the best receiving corps in the league.

AJ Green is having yet another brilliant season despite being the focal point of most teams' defensive gameplans, while Marvin Jones is becoming a threat in the endzone.

Having that duo along with Mohamed Sanu and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, along with running back Giovani Bernard, who had an excellent game against the Steelers in their first matchup of the season, gives Dalton all the weapons he needs to secure the victory for his side.

Getting the ball to those players is another story and despite being ranked 27th in defensive takeaways this season, the Steelers defense can still be potent on their day as players such as Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark can be ball-hawks, while LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds are good pass-rushers.

If Dalton avoids the turnovers at Heinz Field his offense will have a successful day.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers offense has gone through one player for the majority of the season.

Following the departure of Mike Wallace in free agency and after getting a large contract last year, a lot was expected of wide receiver Antonio Brown and he has lived up to those expectations.

The 25-year-old has announced himself as one of the top wideouts in the NFL and is making a surge for a place in the Pro Bowl and, perhaps if the Steelers were performing better, maybe an All-Pro.

He has 90 receptions for 1,241 yards with seven touchdowns and he nearly won an incredible game for his side with his returning skills against the Miami Dolphins, only to be denied with a little toe in touch on the last play of the game wiping out a touchdown.

If he is allowed to roam free in the field the Steelers may be able to match the Bengals point-for-point, so from a Cincinnati perspective they have to shut him down.

Brown is that important he is worth double teaming, so number one cornerback Adam Jones and safety Reggie Nelson along with bracketing coverage from linebackers has to be used to take him out.

If they take him away from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he will be forced to look for other targets in the possession game where Jerricho Cotchery apart, there is a distinct drop off in talent this year for the Steelers, especially when playing against quality opposition. That is where the game will rest.

Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on August 8, 2013
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