The Steelers-Bengals rivalry has become increasingly heated in recent seasons, with the Bengals even sweeping last season’s series. One turning point in Monday’s contest could hinge on the Bengals ability to exploit the Steelers secondary. For example, Carson Palmer has a 132.4 passer rating on play-action passes this season, the highest number in football (minimum 30 attempts). That’s also an area where Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled this season, as opposing passers have a 110.4 rating on play-action passes. However, this season, the passing attack begins with Terrell Owens.
Owens has clearly become the top option in Cincinnati this season, outpacing teammate Chad Ochocinco in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. But what is most impressive about this season for Owens is that he’s doing all this at the age of 36. His 629 receiving yards rank sixth in the NFL, while his 45 receptions are more than the likes of Miles Austin and Wes Welker.
Most Receiving Yards Per Game
Single Season, Age 35 or Older
He’s also doing something no one his age has ever done. Among players 35 years or older, his 89.9 receiving yards per game are most in NFL history in a single season. The names he’s currently ahead of are impressive; Cris Carter, Jerry Rice and Irving Fryar.
All five of Owens’ touchdowns have come in the past four games, and since Week 4, he’s compiled 477 yards through the air, the third most in that span. No doubt Owens is enjoying a change of scenery. He’s already matched his touchdown total from last year with Buffalo, and is ten receptions shy of matching his entire 2009 season. He remains a deep threat as well, as his three touchdowns of 30 yards or more are tied for the league lead. He’ll have his work cut out for him against the Steelers Monday night, however. In five career games against Pittsburgh, Owens has three receiving touchdowns but is averaging just 60 yards per game.
Steelers Defense - Last 2 Seasons
With and Without Troy Polamalu
Fortunately for the Steelers, the leader of their secondary, Troy Polamalu, is ready to go. Over the last two seasons, the Steelers are 9-3 with Troy Polamalu in the lineup and only 5-6 without him. The Steelers allow nearly nine point less and create one and a half more TOs PG with Polamalu than without him during that span.