"Monday Night Football" has been a staple of the NFL for 50 years. The Bengals have enjoyed their fair share of great games and memorable moments since their first appearance in 1970, including clinching a playoff berth in 2014 with a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback to beat future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, as well as a victory over Buffalo in 1975 when quarterback Ken Anderson out-dueled Bills running back O.J. Simpson in a wild offensive showdown.
This week's game is the 12th Bengals-Steelers meeting on Monday Night Football. With 11 previous MNF meetings, Pittsburgh by far is Cincinnati's most frequent MNF opponent.
Here are the three things to watch as the Bengals host the Steelers on Monday Night Football in Week 15.
1. Rush Hour – The biggest key to this game could come down to whomever can rush the football the best. In the first meeting against Pittsburgh, the Bengals had success running the ball and controlling the clock with 139 rushing yards, their second-highest total of the season. Cincinnati will need a similar effort from their trio of running backs to help open up play action and convert on late downs.
Despite having starting running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey back from the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Steelers continue to struggle in the run game. In the past two games, the Steelers have combined for 68 rushing yards on 31 attempts for 2.2 yards per rush. In fact, the Steelers rank last in the NFL in rush yards per game and yards per rush since Week 7.
2. Turnover Focus – Bengals head coach Zac Taylor harped on the turnover battle all week long after the offense lost a fumble on its first three series against the Dallas Cowboys. Since the bye week, the Bengals have committed two or more turnovers in each game. It's a trend that Taylor immediately wants to reverse, especially against a Pittsburgh defense that ranks first in turnover differential (+11) and scoring defense (18.6 points per game).
"We're never going to win any games if we play that way. So you have to first of all, make that an emphasis that we got killed in the turnover battle and we've got to be much better," Taylor said. "We've got to make those improvements. And defensively, we've got to keep punching, raking and when our hands get on the balls, we've got to pick them off. We had one opportunity there in the second half. We've got to do a better job creating turnovers."
3. Third Down Efficiency – One of the more surprising statistics this season is how well the Bengals fare on third downs at home this year. At Paul Brown Stadium this season, Cincinnati ranks third in the NFL converting 50.7 percent of its third downs. That success will need to continue, especially after the Steelers held the Bengals offense to zero third down conversions in the earlier meeting this season.
Look for the Bengals to rely on the dynamic wide receiver duo of Tyler Boyd (78 receptions, 840 yards) and Tee Higgins (58 receptions, 778 yards) to move the chains. Boyd's 15 catches on third down rank tied for 10th in the NFL. Meanwhile, 44 of Higgins' 58 receptions have led to a first down, the 10th-best mark in the league.
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. Eastern.
Television: ESPN broadcast with Steve Levy (play-by-play), Brian Griese (analyst), Louis Riddick (analyst) and Lisa Salters (sideline analyst). In the Cincinnati market, the ESPN broadcast also will be simulcast on WLWT-TV (Channel 5).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
The game also will air nationally on Westwood One Radio. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Kurt Warner (analyst).