The following was worte prior to the Cincinnati Bengals’ showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16. With a berth in the playoffs on the line and a season-defining victory in the crosshairs, Vance Meek wrote an article that still gives me chills.
Ladies and gentlemen of Bengals Nation, today we stand ready to do something that the Cincinnati franchise hasn’t done in 30 years: make back-to-back trips to the NFL playoffs. This season has been full of ups and downs, triumphs and tribulations, and is two weeks from ending in either happiness or sadness. This week will determine which. After last week’s win against the Philadelphia Eagles, we have a one game lead for the second wildcard and the final playoff spot, and we control our own destiny. Win, and we’re in. It’s as simple as that.
Standing in front of us, between us and a shot at playoff redemption is a familiar foe, one we’ve met in battle season after season, each one more bitter than the last. Our opponent is one who has haunted us, taking us behind the woodshed, reminding us constantly who owns the AFC North. Like a bully, they’ve pushed us around constantly, beating us 20 times in 26 matchups since the turn of the century. Even in years where we stood up as a playoff team, they were there to knock us back down, like in 2005, when we won the division. In the postseason they knocked out our quarterback, took our lunch money, and went on to win the Super Bowl, demonstrating yet again who the better franchise is. The Pittsburgh Steelers have dominated this rivalry for a long time, and now they stand between us and history.
This is the biggest game of the year for the Bengals, and the most important game in this rivalry in some time. The winner this week takes complete control of the wildcard spot, while the loser will need a miracle to avoid the sting of being at home in January. Now is the time for the Bengals franchise to show the NFL that the team from Cincinnati isn’t a whipping post for the rest of the league anymore. A win, in Pittsburgh no less, shows everybody that the Bengals are for real, a legitimate threat every year. Instead of an occasional flash, we will be a constant flame. The Bengals franchise, which as been beaten down so much over the last few decades needs to finally stick up for itself and shut the doubters up for good. A win this Sunday does just that, sending a clear message that we are a team to be reckoned with, not one to be mocked anymore.
The Bengals stand at a precipice, with two options. We can lose to the Steelers, and a lot of people would say it’s expected, a young team losing to a team that has dominated the matchups, and we should be glad we had a solid year. It’s not such a bad thing really. The other way though, beating the mighty Steelers to secure a playoff spot, is what dreams are made of. Fans and players alike can join together in celebration of a momentous win and leap forward for the franchise. With a win on Sunday, the Bengals, and not the Steelers, will represent the AFC North, along with the Baltimore Ravens, in the playoffs. More importantly, we will know that we are an equal to Pittsburgh and everybody else. This game means everything. Let us fans stand united behind our players, and rally them to a huge win on Sunday against those we hate the most. Then after the dust clears, and our team stands victorious, we can rise up as one, and leave no doubt to the answer to the question “Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals?”: NOBODY!!!