If Sunday's game plays out like this week's SportsNation poll, the Steelers will beat the Bengals -- but not by much. In a poll that drew 12,146 votes, 51 percent say the Steelers will win and 49 percent sided with the Bengals.
Here are some selected comments from the AFC North mailbag:
Lindsay from Oakland, Md.: The Steelers will win this week as they are home and they tend to play well in pressure games. I don't think the leaders in the locker room will allow anyone to give anything less than 100 percent in this game. Pride will be a factor. Any sign of giving less for some on this team will likely be their last two games in a Steeler uniform. Steelers, 24-13. Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger will lead the way with solid games.
Schuler from Detroit: The Bengals will beat the Steelers in a close one. Last time they met, the Bengals were forced to play undrafted rookie center Trevor Robinson most of the second half due to then-starting center Jeff Faine pulling a hammy. Since then, Trevor has improved his play and Cook is back from in-season injured reserve. This means more consistent run blocking for The Law Firm and more clock control to keep Big Ben off the field.
Ryan from Cincinnati: The time has come for the Bengals to reach the next level. You don't go anywhere in this division without earning respect and you earn that respect by winning big games against the bullies of the division. I don't think the Bengals will be in awe of the Steelers or the moment. The fact is the Bengals simply have better players. The x-factor is Roethlesburger. He has killed the Bengals in the past. If they are to win this, he is the one player they must get to and get down.
Ryan from Portland, Ore.: I voted Steelers because 1) I'm from Pittsburgh and a homer and 2) even though the Steelers have been slowed a bit by age and injuries, they're still an experienced squad with a history of coming together when the chips are down. I just don't see the Bengals and their mostly young talent there yet.
Andrew from Springfield, Ohio: The Bengals go to Pittsburgh and get the job done on Sunday to clench first back to back payoff berths for the first time in 30 years. Why? Healthier, united as a team, best defensive line in the NFL, and oh yeah, they have A.J. Green. Green only had one catch in the Bengals loss to the Steelers earlier this year. Look for that to change Sunday. The offense has made significant strides, including a ground game that Cincinnati fans have been waiting for for a long time. The Bengals are finally playing like a traditional AFC North team.
Adam from Westlake, Ohio: The Bengals are going to win this weekend because I truly believe they are now the better team. As a long-suffering Cincinnati fan, I have long hated the Steelers, mostly because they were the antithesis of my favorite team: successful, well-coached and consistent. But I think age is starting to catch up with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati is finally starting to do things the right way, on and off the field.
David from Atlanta: Lifetime Bengals fan, so I am well schooled in futility. I have to give the nod to the Steelers. It is not enough to give No. 7 (Roethlisberger) happy feet, they have to take him to the ground. I don't think Andy Dalton is the key to the game, the Law Firm is. If he runs well, the Bengals can control the clock, time of possession and the game. However, Marvin Lewis seems unable to coach his Bengals to win the big game. Why do you suppose that is?
Ali from New Orleans: Long-time Bengal fan from the Dayton area. I think the Bengals will take it this weekend for a couple of reasons. On offense, I think A.J. Green is pretty much unstoppable at this point. So long as Dalton doesn't make a big turnover trying to get it to him (no guarantee), we should win the battle against their secondary. On defense, our defensive line is amazing right now, and Pittsburgh's offensive line is not so hot. So long as we can limit Big Ben buying time in the pocket more often than not, we should do enough to disrupt their offense and grab the win. At least I hope so.
Matt from Philadelphia: Pittsburgh will beat Cincinnati and make the playoffs. Although the Steelers have not played well lately, they have had to endure many injuries. So losing four of five games does not reflect their ability. Even with so many players out they still had a chance to win every one of those games. With Ben back and at home for two final games against two teams from Ohio in which the Steelers own, Pittsburgh wins both and goes into the playoffs. Looks like 2005 right, no one wants to play them in the playoffs.
Chris from Rochester, N.Y.: Bengals win. Why? Nothing to lose. They have been consistently irrelevant for so many years that the pressure of this game being played in Pittsburgh is on the Steelers. You can see it in the way the Steelers have played that they know their grasp on the playoffs and the division is coming to an end. Age and injuries have sealed their fate this season.
Hank from Westbrook, Maine: I'm a huge bengals fan and already know that the Bengals will lose to the Steelers. The Bengals never perform under pressure. Just look at history. Remember them missing an easy kick in Denver when they could have clinched (and I believe they lost three in a row to not make the playoffs that year including an OT game against the Steelers in the last game of that year)? I wish I had faith, but I don't see them beating the Steelers or the Ravens. 8-8 and underacheiving just like always.
Brian from Greensboro, N.C.: As much as I would love to believe that the Bengals will win out and take over the AFC North, history is not on their side. Under Marvin Lewis, they do not finish strong. They do not win big games and they do not handle success well. On the other hand, the Steelers know how to win in big games and must win situations. I'd love to see the Bengals win, but as long as Marvin Lewis is the coach they will never be elite. I'd love to hear your opinion, or better yet I wish someone could change my mind.
David from Boston: The Bengals will win this weekend for three reasons: an offense with enough talent now at key positions to put up a few points on the Steelers defense; a weak Pittsburgh running game allowing Mike Zimmer to focus on coverage schemes; and a defensive line talented enough to put adequate pressure on the pocket and contain the Steeler running backs.