It looks like rookie Michael Jordan is headed back to left guard for Monday night's game (8:15-ESPN, Cincinnati's Channel 5) in Pittsburgh after being sidelined last week in Buffalo. Head coach Zac Taylor wouldn't rule out a rotation with Billy Price after the coaches liked what Price did in Jordan's place, but with Jordan back in there with the first group in Saturday morning's practice he also said, "That's the direction where we're headed."
"It's not something I really want to detail publicly," said Taylor of naming a starter and/or rotation. "I still think we've got a lot of guards that can start for us. We wouldn't hesitate if we needed to for any reason to put Billy in the game … We feel like both those guys are reliable right now."
During last Sunday's second half the Bengals' running game perked up for the first time all season and while Taylor liked how Price played he doled out the praise across the line.
"I think the whole unit stepped up and we were able to keep the game manageable so we could call more runs," Taylor said. "Billy played well. I thought the line as a whole made progress last week and through three games we continue to see more improvement from the unit."
BIG BILL: In his fourth season nose tackle Andrew Billings is emerging as the kind of force in the middle the Bengals were banking on when they took him in the fourth round out of Baylor in 2016. He missed his rookie year with a knee injury and after 50 snaps in Buffalo last week profootballfocus.com has him rated 11th among defensive tackles, even ahead of teammate and perennial Pro Bowler Geno Atkins (16).
"Billings has been a consistent player for us. Those D-linemen have played a lot of snaps and Billings is a guy that shows up," Taylor said. "He's stout against the run and he gets on the edge and gets penetration and takes the quarterbacks off the spot."
Defensive end Carl Lawson has as keen an eye as anyone out there and here's his take on Billings. He reminds you that he's still only 24.
"Bill's always had the talent. It's always been about balance and staying on his feet. He's nimbler. He's not on the ground as much. It's kept him in more plays," Lawson said. "Even though he's been in the league a minute, he's still a young guy."
INJURY UPDATE: It looks like Bill is going to play a lot again Monday (as well as Andrew Brown) because for the second straight week tackle Ryan Glasgow (thigh) and end Kerry Wynn (concussion) have been ruled out. Lawson (hamstring) didn't practice again Saturday and finished his second straight week on the rehab field. Last week he was listed as questionable and was active but didn't play. This week Taylor listed him as doubtful.
Everybody else went full go except the guys that guys that didn't practice with wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) and left tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion) also ruled out. So that means slot cornerback B.W. Webb (forearm) is available after not playing last week and Andre Smith is back at left tackle after sitting out Thursday with a hamstring issue.
It remains to be seen if Glenn has suffered a setback. He didn't practice Saturday after working limited for the first time in six weeks Thursday and Friday.
SLANTS AND SCREENs: The Steelers don't have to worry about trading up ahead of the Bengals in the next draft because they've already got their first-round pick. That's what they gave up (and a fifth-rounder) for versatile Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, the 11th pick in the 2018 draft. In his first game as a Steeler last week he was the first Pittsburgh DB to have an interception and forced fumble in the same game in three years.
After Fitzpatrick played three spots (safety, slot and outside corner) for the Dolphins, the thinking is the Steelers are going to eventually put him in the slot most of the time, but ease him in playing safety. But the Bengals are prepared to see him in a few spots.
"Probably a lot of a little bit of everything," said Bengals wide receiver John Ross. "He blitzed a lot."
The Bengals also get the Steelers current first-rounder, Michigann linebacker Devin Bush, a guy for whom they traded up ahead of the Bengals to get because they apparently feared Cincy would take him at No. 11. But the Bengals got their man with the next pick, Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams, on injured reserve following shoulder surgery. They're hoping Williams can get back for December ...
When running back Joe Mixon rushed for 105 yards on just 13 carries in last year's season finale at Heinz, it marked the second 100-yard rushing game by a Bengal in the eight seasons of the A.J. Green-Andy Dalton Era and neither played. Jeremy Hill did it in the 2014 finale in Pittsburgh. The last time a Bengal rushed for 100 yards in a win over Pittsburgh was in 1999 when Corey Dillon went for 120 on 23 carries.
Trey Hopkins continues to be one of PFF's highest-rated centers and as he surveys the Steelers front of nose tackle Javon Hargrave (6-2, 305), Stephon Tuitt (6-6, 303) and Cam Heyward (6-5, 295), there's no secret what they have to do run the ball effectively: "They're so strong. They all play the same way. Strength and physical." …
An A.J. update? OK, after his work on the rehab field Saturday morning he began to jog from the field to the locker room …