When the Cincinnati Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the division title will be on the line. Win, and the Bengals have a clear path to the crown, but a loss would set up a likely December 28 showdown in Pittsburgh for all the marbles. One guy who holds the power to sway the game, and the entire division in the cradle of his left arm is Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell.
In his second year out of Michigan State, Bell has emerged in the upper echelon of backs, below the level of DeMarco Murray maybe, but right there in that next group with LeSean McCoy and Justin Forsett. Through 12 games, Bell has 1046 yards on 216 carries, which places him second in the NFL in yards and eighth in yards per carry (4.8). He also has 65 catches for 643 yards, and he is the unquestioned workhorse of a Pittsburgh offense that’s in the top 10 in points scored and in the top 3 in yards gained.
The really bad news for the Bengals is that their defense continues to struggle against the run, allowing 125 yards per game. With Vontaze Burfict still questionable and the Bengals struggling for linebacker help — they signed former Steeler Chris Carter on Wednesday — Sunday could get ugly.
Ordinarily, facing a mediocre pass defense like the Steelers would give you hope that your quarterback and wide receivers could light it up, but it’s hard to say which Andy Dalton will show up. There is still a lot of uncertainty at right tackle, too, so Dalton may have trouble just keeping his feet under him against Pittsburgh.
Nope, for this game, Le’Veon Bell looks like the sure bet. If he goes off like he’s capable of doing, the NFC North could get tight again in a hurry.