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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Brown doubt means Steelers may lean heavily on Bell

Pittsburgh boosted by return of Schuster from injury

Le'Veon Bell gave the Green Bay defence plenty of trouble last week
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1.30am Monday night

Everything has been progressing pretty smoothly for Pittsburgh this season and the Steelers went into Week 13 having won nine of their 11 games and tied with New England for the best record in the AFC.

Their AFC North derby against Cincinnati has given them more to think about, however, with star wide receiver Antonio Brown a possible absentee after missing practice with a toe injury.

They would be quite capable of winning without him, though, with JuJu Smith-Schuster set to return after missing the win over Green Bay with a hamstring injury.

And running back Le'Veon Bell remains a man the Steelers can rely on. He had 134 rushing yards in the teams' first meeting this season, a 29-14 Steelers success in week seven and again demonstrated his versatility against the Packers with 20 rushing attempts for 95 yards and 12 receptions for 88 yards.

If Brown doesn't make it, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could lean on Bell even more heavily and he looks a fair bet to score the first touchdown.

Cincinnati will be hard pressed to deal with the Steelers' supporting cast in any case with linebackers Vinny Rey and Nick Vigil set to miss the game along with safety Shawn Williams.

The Bengals have made respectable progress since losing their first three games of the season, but Buffalo are the only team they have beaten this season who were not bottom of their division before Sunday's games – they have beaten Cleveland twice, Indianapolis and Denver.

Cincinnati have their own star receiver in AJ Green and rookie running back Joe Mixon looks the real deal but the Steelers have won 13 of their last 16 games against the Bengals and there's not enough evidence on this season's showings to suggest that pattern is set to change.

L Bell first touchdown scorer
1pt 5-1 Coral, Ladbrokes

The lowdown

Venue Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio

Surface Artificial

Weather Cloudy and windy, 11C

Vegas handicap Pittsburgh -5

Vegas points line 43

Team news

Pittsburgh Wide receiver Antonio Brown (toe) is officially rated questionable but could miss the game. Fellow wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstring) is set to return. Safety Mike Mitchell (ankle), linebackers Ryan Shazier (ankle) and James Harrison (knee) and  tight end Vance McDonald (ankle) are also injury concerns.

Cincinnati Linebackers Vinny Rey (hamstring) and Nick Vigil (ankle) and safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) are set to miss the game. 

Key stat
Pittsburgh have won 13 of their last 16 games against Cincinnati.

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Buffalo are the only team Cincinnati have beaten this season who were not bottom of their division going into Week 13
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