Bengals TE Eifert could make impact in wild-card game

Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert catches a pass for a touchdown against the Ravens on Jan. 3, 2016, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert catches a pass for a touchdown against the Ravens on Jan. 3, 2016, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Photo by Getty Images
Ralph N. Paulk
| Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals will enter the AFC wild-card game against the Steelers on Saturday with one of its most productive weapons at full strength.

Tyler Eifert, who leads all NFL tight ends with 14 touchdowns, played only eight snaps in a 33-20 loss to the Steelers four weeks ago.

The Pro Bowler's absence undoubtedly impacted the Bengals' usually explosive offense.

Quarterback AJ McCarron, who relieved the injured Andy Dalton in Week 14, was saddled with an scaled-down playbook. But with Eifert out, his options dwindled significantly.

The Bengals cut down the playbook without Eifert, and the Steelers defense focused mostly on holding down Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.

That will change in the wild-card game Saturday night in Cincinnati.

The Bengals likely are to dial up a play that has resulted in five of Eifert's touchdowns: TE West Right Slot 372-Y.

“We can't approach our passing game any differently, because they know what we're about,” Eifert said. “It's important that we have balance, but we have to make some things happen in the passing game to open up the run game.”

Eifert had four catches against Baltimore last Sunday, and one was a 22-yard touchdown on that play.

He motions out of the slot before the snap, then runs a seam route with outside flanker influencing the deep safety on corner route.

If the Steelers rotate their coverage to account for Eifert, that will leave the cornerbacks — Antwon Blake, William Gay and Ross Cockrell — in one-on-one coverage against Green or wide receiver Marvin Jones.

Ralph N. Paulk is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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