Steelers vs. Bengals: How the teams match up in AFC wild-card playoff

AJ McCarron

Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron will be the sixth consecutive backup that the Steelers have faced.

(Gary Landers / Associated Press)

This city might be rain-soaked, but it has endured an incredible playoff drought.

The Cincinnati Bengals, who play host to Pittsburgh on Saturday night, haven’t won a postseason game in 25 years, a streak of futility that encompasses six consecutive one-and-done outings, with three of those coming at Paul Brown Stadium.

Since entering the league in 1970, the Bengals are 5-13 after the regular season.

Cincinnati Coach Marvin Lewis is 0-6 in the postseason, tying him with Marty Schottenheimer, Jim Mora and Steve Owen for the most consecutive playoff losses by a head coach.


The Steelers have been particularly successful in Cincinnati, going 14-3 at Paul Brown Stadium. That was the site of a 2005 playoff game — the only other time these AFC North rivals have met in the postseason — when Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a gruesome knee injury on his first throw of the game.

Asked how he’s approaching the playoffs this year in light of past struggles, Lewis said: “There’s not a correlation. Each and every time out there’s a new opportunity. It’s new folks, new faces and a new situation.”


False starters


The Steelers are getting quite accustomed to understudies.

Assuming they line up against Cincinnati’s AJ McCarron, the Steelers will be facing a backup quarterback for the sixth consecutive game. They have not faced a regular starter for a full game since Seattle’s Russell Wilson in Week 12.

Andy Dalton, the Bengals’ regular starting quarterback, suffered a broken thumb on his throwing hand while making a tackle on an interception against the Steelers in Week 14.

Although Dalton got the cast off his hand this week, McCarron is expected to start Saturday.

After the loss to Seattle on Nov. 29, the Steelers’ subsequent games came against Indianapolis’ Matt Hasselbeck, McCarron (who came in after Dalton was injured), Denver’s Brock Osweiler, Baltimore’s Ryan Mallett, and Cleveland’s Austin Davis.

Counting a Week 10 outing against Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel and Saturday night’s playoff debut, the Steelers have faced backup quarterbacks in seven of the past eight games.


Well seasoned


With 33 wins, the Steelers are one postseason victory away from tying the Dallas Cowboys for the most in NFL history. The Cowboys have 60 playoff games under their belt; the Steelers are on their 56th.

According to STATS LLC., the rest of the top five on that list of playoff victors is Green Bay (31), San Francisco (30), and New England (28).


By the numbers

How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for turnover differential, which is for the season (league rank in parentheses):


Points scored | 26.4 (T4) | 26.2 (7)

Points allowed | 19.9 (11) | 17.4 (2)


Pass offense | 287.7 (3) | 245.2 (15)

Rush offense | 107.8 (16) | 112.8 (13)

Pass defense | 271.9 (30) | 248.5 (20)

Rush defense | 91.2 (5) | 92.3 (7)

Sacks | 48 (3) | 42 (T9)

Penalty yards | 54.3 (10) | 57.3 (18)

Turnovers | +2 (15) | +11 (3)

Sam Farmer’s pick

Everything points to the Steelers winning, including the fact Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger typically plays so well in his home state of Ohio, and the Steelers offense can put up tons of points on anyone. But McCarron isn’t bad, and Pittsburgh’s defense is prone to big breakdowns. Watch for the Bengals to pull off a home upset and finally win a home playoff game.



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