Game Preview

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Game Preview: Week 4 Bengals at Steelers

Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) defends a pass to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) defends a pass to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. Eastern.

Television: ESPN broadcast with Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Booger McFarland (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), Kurt Warner (analyst) and Ryan Harris (sideline reporter).

Setting the scene: The Bengals this week travel for the second consecutive game to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Monday Night Football. Both teams enter the contest 0-3. However, first place in the division — currently held by the 2-1 Baltimore Ravens — still is well within striking distance.

Last week, the Bengals lost in nail-biting fashion to the Buffalo Bills, 21-17. After falling behind 14-0 at halftime, Cincinnati staged a second-half rally that saw them take a 17-14 lead with less than five minutes remaining. But the Bills put together a seven-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead, and a last-minute Bengals drive ended with an interception deep in Buffalo territory, sealing Cincinnati’s fate.

Cincinnati’s offense, which ranks third in the NFL in passing yards per game (308.3), struggled to find a rhythm early against Buffalo and was held to just one first down and 76 total yards in the first half. Despite Buffalo’s lopsided time of possession advantage — 36:54 to 23:06 — Cincinnati’s defense managed to keep the game close, allowing the offense time to adjust and find its stride in the third and fourth quarters.

As the team’s focus now shifts toward the division-rival Steelers, Taylor and the Bengals are well aware of the formidable challenge that lies ahead.

A win over Pittsburgh would be Cincinnati’s first against the Steelers since a 16-10 victory at Heinz Field in 2015. But it also would significantly boost the Bengals’ playoff hopes. Over the last 10 seasons (2009-18), nine of the 75 teams (12 percent) to start 1-3 have gone on to make the playoffs. None of the 28 teams that started 0-4, however, qualified for the postseason.

Monday’s game will be the 100th meeting (including playoffs) between the Bengals and Steelers, a rivalry that has long been considered among the NFL’s most intense. Just ask Taylor.

The series: The Steelers lead 64-35 overall and 33-16 as the home team. The series includes two postseason games, both Steelers wins in Wild Card round contests at Paul Brown Stadium, after the 2005 and ’15 seasons.

The Bengals have played more games against the Steelers (99) than any other foe. Cleveland is second in that category at 91, and Tennessee (formerly Houston Oilers) is third at 75.

The Bengals on MNF: This week’s game is the 11th Bengals-Steelers meeting on Monday Night Football. With 10 previous MNF meetings, Pittsburgh by far is Cincinnati’s most frequent MNF opponent. The Miami Dolphins are the only other team to have taken on the Bengals more than twice on MNF. The Dolphins and Bengals have had four meetings. Cincinnati’s all-time MNF record is 11-24.

Bengals-Steelers connections: Bengals WR Tyler Boyd is from Clairton, Pa., and played at the University of Pittsburgh ... Bengals K Randy Bullock was with the Steelers in 2016 ... Bengals CB B.W. Webb was with the Steelers in 2014 ... Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (Reserve/Injured) is from Findlay, Ohio, and played at Miami (Ohio) University ... Steelers WR Johnny Holton played at the University of Cincinnati ... Steelers P Jordan Berry played at Eastern Kentucky University ... Steelers RB Benny Snell Jr. and LB Bud Dupree both played at the University of Kentucky ... Steelers senior defensive assistant/secondary coach Teryl Austin was Bengals defensive coordinator in 2018 ... Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was defensive backs coach at the University of Cincinnati from 1999-2000 ... Bengals defensive line coach Nick Eason played for the Steelers from 2007-10 ... Bengals quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt is from Pittsburgh, and played quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh from 1989-92 ... Steelers DT Cameron Heyward and LB Ryan Shazier (Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform) both played at Ohio State University ... Steelers WR Diontae Johnson, LB Jayrone Elliott, LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and CB Trevon Mathis (practice squad) all played at the University of Toledo.

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