1:00 PM ET, December 4, 2005
Cincinnati (8-3) at Pittsburgh (7-4) Sunday 1:00 pm EST
Perennial laughingstocks, the Bengals could take a major step toward winning their first division title in 17 years Sunday when they meet the Steelers for a second time this season.
Cincinnati, which has not won a division crown since capturing the AFC Central in 1988, enters the contest with a one-game lead over Pittsburgh.
However, the Bengals still have plenty to prove against the Steelers. They have lost nine of the last 11 meetings between the teams, including a 27-13 home drubbing on October 23.
While the Steelers failed to get much going through the air, they pounded the Bengals on the ground, rushing for 221 yards. Willie Parker led the way, rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown.
With the running game leading the way, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger completed 9-of-14 passes for just 93 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
Roethlisberger hit rookie tight end Heath Miller with a two-yard touchdown early in the second quarter and connected with Hines Ward on a three-yard scoring play in the third quarter, giving the Steelers a 24-6 lead.
The Steelers also frustrated Carson Palmer, who completed 21-of-36 passes for 227 yards. But Palmer threw two interceptions in a 3 1/2 minute span of the third quarter when the Steelers took control of the game.
Cincinnati has rebounded to win three of its last four games since the loss to the Steelers, including last week's 42-29 victory over Baltimore. Palmer completed 22-of-30 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.
The Steelers enter the contest looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since a five-game slide in 2003.
After missing three games following arthroscopic right knee surgery, Roethlisberger returned in last Monday's 26-7 loss at Indianapolis. He completed 17-of-26 passes for 133 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in falling to 18-2 in his career as a starter during the regular season.
Matchup to watch: Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who had seven catches for 75 yards in the first meeting, against left cornerback Ike Taylor, who was beaten for an 80-yard touchdown by Marvin Harrison last Monday.
Series: The Steelers lead, 42-28.
Next week: Cincinnati hosts Cleveland, December 11 Pittsburgh hosts Chicago, December 11
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Huge AFC North matchup
The top spot in the AFC North will be on the line when the Bengals look to exact revenge for an earlier home loss to the Steelers this season. For the Bengals to even the score, they must get more out of their big three of QB Carson Palmer, RB Rudi Johnson and WR Chad Johnson than they did in the earlier meeting.
After being embarrassed by the Colts on Monday night, the Steelers must regain their confidence and properly prepare during a short work week. With the dust now knocked off, QB Ben Roethlisberger must re-establish his presence as a calming force and leader. But the X-factor in this game will be the Steelers rushing attack, which shredded through the Bengals defense the first time these two teams met.
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|Avg Points Allowed||19.9||18.8|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||CIN|
|Rush Yds Allowed||CIN|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Pittsburgh leads 8-3|
|Oct 23, 2005||CIN 13, PIT 27|
|Nov 21, 2004||CIN 14, PIT 19|
|Oct 3, 2004||CIN 17, @PIT 28|
|Nov 30, 2003||CIN 24, @PIT 20|
|Sep 21, 2003||CIN 10, PIT 17|
|Nov 24, 2002||CIN 21, @PIT 29|
|Oct 13, 2002||CIN 7, PIT 34|
|Dec 30, 2001||CIN 26, PIT 23|
|Oct 7, 2001||CIN 7, @PIT 16|