There are rivalries, and then there are the Bengals and Steelers. When these two teams meet, there’s bound to be jawing and finger-pointing. The players had toned it down at one point, saying it was nothing more than a game. But, those who know the history of the battle realize it’s much more. It borders on the brink of a rivalry gone mad. There’s no love lost between the teams.
Cincinnati versus Pittsburgh isn’t just a game. The players will say that it’s just one of many that have to be played. But that’s far from the truth. Beyond the chippy games and thuggish social media exchanges, there’s a dislike that comes from mutual respect. The Bengals and Steelers have been rivals long before many of the fans were even born.
In recent years, the Bengals–Steelers rivalry has taken on a new dimension. The atmosphere has turned into a circus of on-field fights and sideline scuffles. It would be easy to mistake the gridiron for an arena decked out for WWE Monday Night RAW. The banter has become just as insane.
“I hate Pittsburgh. It’s not personal. That’s just the way it is.”
The Bengals used to have dominance over Pittsburgh. There was a mutual, unspoken respect. During the 1980s, Bengals fans were treated to a powerhouse. Under the leadership of Forrest Gregg and Sam Wyche, the Bengals weren’t the disrespected team that bandwagon fans are used to hearing about.
The Bengals went 13-6 against the Steelers. Things were looking up. Then, the age of desolation happened from 1990-2002. That’s when the respect was tossed aside and all-out war was the replacement value. Emotions devolved into the wild antics seen today.
Since 2011, the Steelers have won the AFC North one time. But they still have the attitude of being the best team in the division. That’s a debatable matter, based upon stats and opinion. But, the bottom line is clear. The Bengals and Steelers don’t like each other. That’s a “stone cold” fact.
During the heartbreaking Wild Card Round loss, on January 9, Vontaze Burfict played the villain once more. He was hit with a fifteen-yard personal foul for alleged targeting on Antonio Brown. The resulting blow helped the Steelers win and caused Brown to miss the Divisional Round game against the Broncos. Bengals corner Adam Jones claimed Brown wasn’t hurt, but later apologized.
“I feel like they wanted to take me out, kill me, steal my dreams. End me.”
Former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason admits there are no other comparisons to the madness the teams displayed during the season and in the playoff game. Boomer claims no one wants to watch. But the games are always a sellout, and prime time ratings are excellent.
“There is an intensity there that is bordering on lunacy,” he explained. “I know both coaches were told before the game to control their players to make them understand it’s only between the whistles. That game got out of control.”
Hines Ward feels that the rivalry has taken on new meaning also. He says the respect is gone and there’s nothing but hatred.
“That’s what the rivalry has become. It’s become personal, it’s hatred now,” Ward shared, via The Jim Rome Show.“If they’re in this room right now, they’re not shaking hands. They’re not saying what’s up or congratulations. They’re not saying any of that. It’s, ‘I can’t wait to play you. If I see you in the streets there’s going to be some problems.’ “
The rivalry has truly gotten out of hand. But, if the battle is to showcase the talent that both teams have, there must be a departure from WWE antics. The madness has to end, and the football has to return.
[Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images]