Ben Roethlisberger's gift to AJ McCarron: a sweaty wristband

SteelersBengals0111d-4 The Steelers’ Mike Mitchell left and Ryan Shazier right look to recover a fumble by the Bengals’ Jeremy Hill in the fourth quarter of the AFC wild-card game Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati

While second-year backup AJ McCarron is expected to play on Saturday, Andy Dalton is inching toward a return - perhaps as early as next week should Cincinnati advance - after fracturing his thumb in the Bengals' 33-20 loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 13.TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS.

Looks like there is a strong consensus out there among the sportswriter literati that the Steelers are a solid number eight overall team. "Being a No. 6 seed and playing Cincinnati, a place where we had won earlier that year, we just had a comfort level going in there and knowing that we could come out of that game with a victory".

In the immediate aftermath of being thrust onto the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 13, AJ McCarron vowed he would play better, that he would not make the same decisions that led to a touchdown off an interception and another interception that set up a short field and another Steelers score.

In that game, less than two years after McCarron's meeting with Roethlisberger at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the freshman quarterback's St. Paul's Saints lost to the 10-ranked Wolverines 20-0 in their season-opening game at E.E. Delaney Stadium in Mobile.

The Bengals haven't won a playoff game in 25 years, the sixth-longest postseason drought in NFL history.

So what harm could a change under center cause? "I think the message was taken care of before", Lewis said.

"Oh man, I'd love to be able to play for this team", Dalton said. From the huddle calls to where he's going to be - and all those kinds of things.

The Steelers own the Bengals, Andy Dalton or not. As of late, the Steelers have found success on offense. Its 19.9 points allowed per game made that acceptable. "We know that we line up against anybody that we're confident that we're going to get the job done".

SteelersColts0111b-6 Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger makes the saving tackle on Colts’ Nick Harper after a Jerome Bettis fumble late in the fourth quarter in January 2006 in Indianapolis. The Steelers defeated the Colts 21-18 and eventually mar
Ben Roethlisberger's gift to AJ McCarron: a sweaty wristband

Cincinnati had finished the regular season with an 11-5 record and earned the AFC North title as well as the third seed in the AFC. He has passed for 832 yards and six touchdowns since replacing Dalton, and he's not thrown an interception in his three starts after being picked off twice by Pittsburgh.

McCarron played another largely mistake-free game Sunday, passing for 160 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens.

The Steelers might have a little hitch in their giddy-up this weekend as RB DeAngelo Williams suffered a foot injury in the regular season finale. Cincinnati has to also be careful of Martavis Bryant who is another big-play receiver.

"And when you have opportunity, take it away", said Lewis, when asked what it will take to beat a division rival that has lost just three times in PBS since it opened in 2000. The two games couldn't have been more different. Losing Dalton meant the whole offense had to adjust on the fly. There could be a lot of points in this one, so we'd avoid this matchup for a D/ST. Instead, pick your offensive players in this one. The Bengals went 2-1 in his three starts.

Looking back at the victory over the Browns that got them into the playoffs, the offense struggled at times and Ben analyzed their effort and if they were happy with it. It doesn't matter that Antonio Brown led the league or whatever. The star running back is still suffering from an ankle injury and the team's offense will be significantly reduced to half without him. That can be complicated at times, but it's gotten better and better.


Andy Dalton will see a hand specialist Monday. Since then, however, things have taken a turn for this talented roster. Defensively, the Bengals yield 248.5 yards in passing and 92.3 yards in rushing.

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