Bengals' balanced offense poses threat to Steelers
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 10:27 p.m.
The Cincinnati Bengals possess one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL. They have the talent to lean on the run or the pass.
Yet, even as wide receiver A.J. Green has developed into a prolific big-play threat, the Bengals offense is fueled largely by a resilient ground game that features two running backs — BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard — with contrasting styles.
Bernard torched the Steelers in the Bengals' 20-10 victory at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 2. He scored on a 7-yard run and put the game out of reach with a dazzling 27-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter.
“They have running backs with different styles, but they have the same goal,” said defensive end Ziggy Hood, who for the third time in four weeks likely will start for injured Brett Keisel when the Steelers host the AFC North leaders on Sunday at Heinz Field. “We have to be aware of who's in the backfield and what they're capable of doing.”
When the Steelers have been able to stuff the Bengals' run game, they often frustrated Andy Dalton. The third-year quarterback threw the ball 45 times in the teams' first meeting, but the Bengals rushed 34 times for 127 yards to keep the heat off Dalton.
“It's our job to frustrate Dalton,” said Hood, who sat out Wednesday's practice with a sore ankle. “They don't abandon the running game. They'll keeping pounding and pounding. If it doesn't work, they'll try something else but come back to it.”
The goal for the Steelers, said defensive end Cam Heyward, is to put the game into the hands of the sometimes-erratic Dalton, who endured a rough two-game stretch before leading the Bengals to their current three-game winning streak. He completed 24 of 34 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-28 win over the Colts on Sunday.
“We want to make them one-dimensional,” Heyward said. “They can sometimes catch defenses off guard because they have a north-and-south runner (Green-Ellis) and an edge runner (Bernard) who helps in the pass game, as well.
“If we can turn back the run game early, it can change the whole game. They do a good job when Giovani's in the game with two tight ends, running the toss cracks and sweeps. When BenJarvus is in, they go straight up the middle.”
If the Steelers are to snap a two-game slide and keep alive their fading playoff chances, the defensive line must win the trench war. Specifically, Heyward and Hood will have the dual responsibility of funneling Green-Ellis and Bernard inside the tackles and applying enough pressure to disrupt Dalton's rhythm.
The Steelers rush defense has improved over the second half of the season, in part, because of the improved play of Heyward. The former No. 1 draft pick was practically unstoppable in a 34-28 loss to Miami, recording a sack, a tackle for loss, one quarterback hurry, a pass defense and 10 total tackles.
The Bengals (9-4), two games clear of reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore (7-6), aren't likely to go away from what has worked for much of this season. Green-Ellis and Bernard will share the load with the purpose of setting up a passing game against a sometimes-vulnerable Steelers secondary.
“If you have a number of guys who can help you, we should never have a guy say he's tired,” Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “We can sub guys in and out, and guys can be fresh and playing fast.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Despite many moves, Steelers’ depth still a work in progress
- 3 more college players visit Steelers ahead of NFL Draft
- Steelers’ Tomlin experiencing urgency entering 2014
- Steelers take flier on ex-Colts WR Heyward-Bey
- Steelers get familiar exhibition opponents