* A.J. Green challenges himself down the stretch.*
A.J. Green has 19 100-yard games in his NFL career, two of them in December. So in this season of challenging himself and being challenged, consider it done.
"I've got to find a way to make plays no matter what the coverage," Green said Thursday of the foes' crunch-time tactics down the stretch. "That's what I'm here for, to make those kinds of plays.
"Big time players make plays in big-time games. That's what I have to do," he said after a practice he was limited for the second straight day with a thigh issue. "Anything before that really doesn't matter. It's what you do in December. You try to make some big plays and see who can get on a hot streak."
He knows the Steelers are on the way. Last year he kept grinding during the loss in Pittsburgh with 93 yards. That's where he went for 100 the last time in December when his 116 yards in a game of 547 yards were immense, particularly the 21-yard catch in the last minute that got them into the 2012 playoffs in the 13-10 win over the Steelers.
"It was a lot of short routes. They don't like to give up a lot of deep balls. We've got to take what they give us," Green said. "They always mix it up. You know Dick LeBeau is one of the best defensive coaches to ever coach, to play and coach. It's always tough to go against him and that veteran defense. They're always working some new guy in but it's the same concept.
"Ike wasn't a part of that," said Green of Pittsburgh's recent struggles with the long ball. "They've got one of their great corners back."
"Ike," is Ike Taylor, the 12-year veteran who came back last week after missing eight games. Taylor is no longer matched up on the best receiver, so Green will also see William Gay and Brice McCain. Taylor, who didn't play in the 2012 game, is tied at No. 99 in the CB ratings with three TDs allowed by ProFootballFocus.com.
Green is having none of that.
"I've been playing against Ike for a long time. He's one of the best. A crafty vet. He's been doing this for a long time. He's always a tough matchup," Green said. "He's seen some of the best receivers that have come through. You've got to be able to work him and not give him an indicator because he can clue in on a lot of things."
It's one of those games. A big one in December. Green knows exactly what's required. He doesn't expect a challenge this week from offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
"He doesn't have to say anything," Green said." I know what I have to go out there and do. I'm going to try to do that."
INJURY UPDATE: Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) looks like he'll miss his sixth straight game Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Steelers after working on the side early in Thursday's practice. Backup right end Margus Hunt (ankle) didn't work and it looks like he'll miss his third straight game. Nose tackle Domata Peko (elbow) worked vigorously on the side and it looks like he's getting ready to practice Friday.
Also out but not working on the side for the second straight day was rookie wide receiver James Wright (knee). Left tackle Andrew Whitworth rested his knee.
But a group of Bengals did return to work Thursday, among them cornerback Adam Jones (concussion), fullback Ryan Hewitt (illness), defensive lineman Robert Geathers (hip) and guard Mike Pollak (knee). Jones and Geathers were limited.