The Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) are looking to win their first playoff game in 25 years when they welcome a division rival to town for a wild-card playoff game (Saturday, 8:15 p.m.). The Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) are also looking for their first win in four playoff games. Here are things to watch for during the game:
Why watch? You'll want to pay close attention to the emphasis both teams place on running the football, as inclement weather could be a factor. All week the forecast has been ugly, and it remained that way late Friday. There's a greater than 85 percent chance of rain around kickoff, with temperatures in the high 40s. Snow doesn't appear to be a risk, but the rain could persist throughout. If it does, that may not bode all that well for both quarterbacks. The ball likely will be slick, forcing both offensive coordinators to put it into the hands of their running backs. The problem in Pittsburgh's case is that lead running back DeAngelo Williams -- the player who rushed for 71 yards on nine carries in the Week 8 loss to the Bengals -- won't be there to shoulder the load. Williams was ruled out Friday with a foot injury.
Without Williams, the Steelers will turn to backups Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman, two players who combined for 22 carries and 64 yards during the regular season. With Le'Veon Bell also out for the season with a knee injury, the Steelers are down to their third- and fourth-string running backs. That could affect the passing game, too. Blitz pickup is an important facet of running back play, and because of their pre-existing status on the depth chart, Toussaint and Todman may not have the requisite skills to keep quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright. It wouldn't be surprising if the Bengals defense, one that doesn't blitz often by nature, tests the two backs with a series of early blitzes. Williams' absence could have wide-ranging impact.
Keep your eyes peeled ... on the Bengals' defensive line. Specifically, look for how well Pro Bowl and All-Pro tackle Geno Atkins pressures Roethlisberger after being relatively ineffective in the teams' first two games this season. He had three tackles and a sack in them. Others on the line, namely ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson were slightly more effective. They, too, had at least one sack in the two regular-season meetings with Pittsburgh. The overall pressure they applied along with tackle Domata Peko played a role in Roethlisberger's four interceptions in the two games. With Pittsburgh's desire to get Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown going downfield, the Bengals' secondary will be looking for more turnovers. Their ability to get the ball back in AJ McCarron's hands could be critical. Turnovers would allow the Bengals to play keep away from a truly explosive offense.
In addition to the other defensive linemen, keep your eye on rookie DeShawn Williams. There's a chance the Clemson product could be activated after being signed off the practice squad this week following tackle Brandon Thompson's ACL injury last week. Williams certainly impressed coaches in the preseason.
Did you know? The Steelers are one win shy of tying the Cowboys for the most postseason wins (34) in NFL history. ... If the Bengals lose Saturday, Marvin Lewis would be the first coach in league history to go 0-7 in playoff appearances. ... The record for individual single-game pass attempts in this rivalry is 68, set in 2001 by Cincinnati's Jon Kitna. Don't expect a quarterback to throw that many Saturday.