By the end of Sunday afternoon's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the visiting Cincinnati Bengals, one of the two AFC North squads will be in fantastic shape to continue their march on towards a postseason berth. Whether either team will get the help they need from Baltimore to capture the divisional crown and a potential first round bye is yet to be determined, but the winner of the Week 13 matchup will certainly have a very comfortable inside track towards, at worst, securing a wild card spot as either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the AFC.
The Steelers won the first of two meetings in Week 10, 24-17, thanks in large part of the solid play of Ben Roethlisberger, and the suffocating defense played by Dick LeBeau's unit for much of the afternoon. The Bengals did record five sacks, but the number is a bit deceiving, as two or three of them were plays where Big Ben could have easily thrown the ball away. For much of the game though, Roethlisberger had ample time to scan the field and throw the ball cleanly.
The Bengals registered those five sacks without the services of their best pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, and all signs point towards the former Florida Gator's hamstring not being healed enough for him to play. Dunlap is listed as doubtful on Cincinnati's official injury report, and if he is in fact ruled out, it would be the third game in the Bengals' last four that he was unable to play.
CB Nate Clements (hamstring) and DT Pat Sims (ankle) were also unable to practice on Friday, but are listed as questionable. Marvin Lewis expressed optimism that Clements would at least be able to go. And they might need him, having already lost Leon Hall for the season earlier this year.
S Chris Crocker (biceps) and TE Donald Lee (foot) were limited on Friday and also are listed as questionable. Again, the availability of capable bodies in Mike Zimmer's secondary will be important for the Bengals. Lee is more expendable on a week-to-week basis though, as Jermaine Gresham is clearly the guy Andy Dalton likes to throw the ball to in the passing game.
And finally, DT Domata Peko (foot) and WR Jerome Simpson (knee) were able to participate fully for the first time this week on Friday. Listed as probable, both should be in uniform on Sunday.