Sunday’s home clash with the suddenly-mortal Steelers will be the biggest game of the season for both clubs. The Bengals will look to maintain their lead in the AFC while the Steelers will be desperate for a win to keep pace with their striped rivals and the Ravens in the division. It promises to be a knock-down, drag-out slugfest and a true barometer of how good this Bengal team really is.
We will see how well our vaunted defensive line does in containing Ben Roethlisberger and Rashad Mendenhall, and we’ll see how well our offense holds up against Dick Lebeau’s laboratory of mayhem. Andy Dalton’s poise and football IQ will be tested by a relentless pass rush and the clever schemings of Troy Palomalu–a guy who had Carson Palmer’s number for years. In short, it will be a test.
Luckily for the guys in orange, they’ll be getting healthy just in time. Head coach Marvin Lewis confirmed today that he expects LB Rey Maualuga, CB Adam Jones, and TE Jermaine Gresham to all be back to practice this week after missing the last few games with various injuries. When asked if he expects the three to practice this week, Lewis responded, “Yes, yes, and yes.” Good news.
Plus, late game injuries to DE Carlos Dunlap and RB Brian Leonard do not appear to be serious.
This is good news indeed, as the run defense hasn’t performed as well with Dan Skuta in the middle. If Maualuga can go, it will help contain the Steeler ground game. Gresham is a safety valve target that can help Dalton out of jams, and his blocking will be needed to contain Lebeau’s zone blitzes. Jones is an upgrade over nickel backs Kelly Jennings and Morgan Trent, and his lone play so far this year was a 62-yard punt return that set up a score.
All of these guys are coming back in th nick of time.
Perhaps just as important will be Dunlap and Leonard. Dunlap has been huge late in games, and has come on strong in recent weeks. His size and speed can cause havoc for the Steeler offensive front. Leonard has been a first down factory throughout his career in the ‘Nati, especially this year. Having him on the field on third downs will be critical in protecting Dalton and getting 10 yards when they need 9.