The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals are both assured a spot in the postseason, but who takes home the AFC North title, a home playoff game, and possibly a week off will be determined Sunday night at Heinz Field.
At 10-4-1, the Bengals are currently first in the North and in line to win consecutive division crowns for the first time in their history. Should Cincinnati prevail and Denver and Indianapolis fall earlier in the day, it will move into the No. 2 seed for a first-round bye. New England already wrapped up the top seed so neither the Bengals nor the Steelers can move higher than No. 2 in the postseason.
The Steelers can also pick up the No. 2 seed, but only need the Broncos to slip up to do so, thanks to their 51-34 victory over the Colts in Week 8. Cincinnati suffered its worst loss of the season, 27-0, to Indianapolis in Week 7 and would lose out on the head-to-head tiebreaker if the Colts manage to beat Tennessee on the road this week.
Both squads are coming off big victories and riding winning streaks. Pittsburgh has taken three in a throw, including Week 14’s 42-21 road smashing of the Bengals and last week’s 20-12 win over Kansas City. Cincinnati dropped Denver with a 37-28 victory last week, picking of opposing quarterback Peyton Manning four times.
That kind of success against Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger will be difficult to come by for Cincinnati. Enjoying the best personal success of his career, Roethlisberger has already hit a new career-high with 4,635 yards passing and has 30 touchdown passes to eight interceptions. In Week 14 Roethlisberger lit up the Bengals secondary for 350 yards and three touchdowns.
Second-year running back Le’Veon Bell also continued his stellar season with 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while catching six more balls for 50 yards and another score.
But since that loss the Bengals offense has found a new rhythm, racking up 30 or more points in consecutive games for the first time this season behind rookie running back Jeremy Hill. Cincy blasted Cleveland 30-0 with Hill gaining 148 rushing yards and two scores and then Denver a week later.
Hill’s taken over lead rushing duties from Giovani Bernard in the last five games, and has already amassed 1,024 yards at 5.1 yards per carry. He’ll take on a Steelers defense that's ranked No. 6 against the run and is relatively healthy along the defensive line and at linebacker.
Injuries don’t appear to be a major issue for the Steelers, but the Bengals are a different matter altogether. Pittsburgh has safety Troy Polamalu (knee), cornerback Ike Taylor (shourlder, forearm) and tight end Michael Palmer listed as questionable on its official injury report.
But Cincinnati has six players listed as questionable due to a flu outbreak in the locker room, including key contributors like cornerback Adam Jones, second-leading tackler and safety Reggie Nelson and third-leading tackler and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur.
Start Time: 8:30 P.M. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Live Streaming Info: A live stream is available at SNF All Access here
Betting Odds: Pittsburgh -3.5
Over/Under: 48 points
Prediction: Pittsburgh over Cincinnati, 34-24