Bengals vs. Steelers once again has playoff feel

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Nov 13, 2011; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals center Kyle Cook (64) lines up during the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers defeated the Bengals 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers will face-off next Monday night in a game that will no doubt have a playoff feel to it. Both teams are licvking their wounds after losing their openers, and both clubs have some significant injuries to overcome.

The Steelers lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and longtime inside linebacker Larry Foote to season-ending injuries during their loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Pouncey suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee during the Steelers’ opening possession of the game, and now they are signing former Titans starter Fernando Velasco to a one-year deal. He’ll be a suitable replacement if you look at how he faired on Pro football Focus’ grading system:

Pouncey is arguably the top center in the NFL, and going from him to Velasco is a very significant dropoff. A team with a tradition of running the ball could not pick up one first down in the run game against the Titans. The ground game is clearly a mess, and there are no easy fixes given the loss of Pouncey to a season-ending knee injury and with rookie running back Le’Veon Bell still recovering from a mid-foot sprain.