December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerbackAdam Jones
(24) returns a punt against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
While the Steelers come in with the 7th ranked pass defense and the Bengals 8th, if healthy, I would have to give the CB edge to the Bengals as well. However, with Hall shelved for the year and Newman shelved for 1-3 weeks, the Bengals are sans their top two CBs.
While I like Jones, Kirkpatrick and Ghee, Jones has not had a great 2013 (and was exposed by the Steelers in their first matchup) and Kirkpatrick and Ghee are highly touted but are injury prone and have just a few more games of NFL experience than me.
The Bengals CBs will have their hands full with the Steelers speedy WRs on Sunday night. The Steelers, on the other hand, have loads of experience. 11 vet Ike Taylor is one of the best and most underrated CBs in the NFL and has played very well against AJ and Chad over the years and while William Gay and Cortez Allen are nothing great, unlike the Bengals 2nd and 3rd CBs, Gay and Allen are experienced and tested (7 and 3 years respectively).
Troy Polamalu is nearly 33 and Ryan Clark is 34, and while not the players they once were, they are very smart and still a solid safety duo (for the most part). While Polamalu can be caught out of position from time-to-time and is more vulnerable to being caught guessing than ever before, he still runs around like a wild man and still makes huge plays (2 INTs, 9 passes defensed, 2 sacks, 3 FF and 56 tackles).
Dalton will need to account for this bunch that has 5 interceptions, 4 FFs and 14 passes defensed on the season. For the Bengals, Nelson is a very good FS and Iloka has been very solid at SS. It looks like Iloka will play, but with his “head injury” and Newman being out, we may see more of Crocker at both safety and corner and maybe even the rookie Shawn Williams.
Either way, the Bengals safeties will have their hands full with Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller and the Steelers speedy receivers. The Bengals safeties are solid, but they don’t make the big plays that Polamalu and Clark are accustomed to making.