Bengals-Steelers Rivalry is Best in Football

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Dec 13, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; The Pittsburgh Steelers line up against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 33-20. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; The Pittsburgh Steelers line up against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 33-20. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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It sounds weird saying that there is a rivalry between two teams, when one team has dominated the series, especially in the last 20 years. But believe it or not, the rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers has never been stronger. The rivalry has featured some great players and some big time games, but has never seen the spotlight that it will be getting next season.

I understand there is an alleged rivalry between the Bengals and the Browns, but let’s be honest, no one has considered the Browns a rival for the past 20 years.  I asked Kim Myers, the editor over at Still Curtain for some insight on how they perceive the rivalry. 

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The Beginning

The first game the Bengals and Steelers played took place at “the house that Clemente built” Three Rivers Stadium, the year after the AFL-NFL Merger, 1970. The teams split the series that year, which was the first of 19 season splits between the two clubs. As dominant as the Steelers were in the 70’s, winning three super bowls, they only won 14 of the 20 matchups against Cincinnati.

Onto the 80’s, where Cincinnati won the series 13-6, matching Pittsburgh 70’s run (only 1 game was played in 1982 due to the player’s strike). The 80’s run included the 42-7 beating by Cincinnati, that remains to this day as the largest margin of victory between the two teams. It also included a game where the Steelers won without scoring an offensive touchdown, and somehow managed to score 24 to Cincinnati’s 14.

The 1990 season included a Cincinnati sweep of the Steelers, but the team managed to win only 5 more games the rest of the decade. The 1998 season, the Bengals posted a 3-13 record, with two of those wins being over the Steelers by a combined 9 points. The end of the 90’s also ushered in a new era, as both teams were moving out of their respective stadiums, Riverfront Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium.

the rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers has never been stronger

The 2000’s were the most dominant for the Steelers. They took the series 15-6, their most notable win coming in the 2005 AFC Wild Card game, which was the first playoff meeting between the two teams. The Bengals lost starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, on their first drive and failed to hang on to a 17-7 lead, allowing the Steelers to score 24 unanswered points to eliminate the Bengals. Palmer later stated, “I hate the Steelers more than I hate UCLA” (he played college football at USC). To this day, both sides remain hostile about this matchup.

Recent Years

The rivalry has heated up in recent years. Starting in 2010, the Steelers rattled off 5 wins in a row. That was their second longest streak in the rivalry. They have managed to split the series since that 5 game run, at three games a piece. The rivalry has really sparked the last season, when the teams split last seasons matchups, which led to the Bengals winning the AFC North, and kept the Steelers in the Wild Card. This led to the matchup in the playoffs.

Every single NFL fan knows what happened in last year’s AFC Wild Card Game, and for Bengals fan’s sake, I won’t discuss it too much. The Bengals suffered one of the worst losses in my memory, and that’s coming from someone who wrote for the Packers when they lost to the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Championship Game in terrible fashion. This put the rivalry on the map for all NFL fans, as it was a primetime game.

The Fans

As a kid from the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, and former Packers’ writer, I was not as familiar with the Bengals-Steelers rivalry at first as I am with the Packers-Bears rivalry. With both rivalries, fans on both sides can feel their blood boiling when either team is mentioned. When I joined a Bengals fan group on Facebook (to promote my works), I didn’t understand just how bad fans from both sides disliked each other. After spending a couple of weeks as the editor for Stripe Hype, I definitely see it now. The animosity towards each other rivals the Packers-Bears hatred.

I asked Kim Myers, editor of Still Curtain, for some perspective from the other side of the rivalry:

Kim Myers:

There’s no doubt that this past season has created some memorable moments between the Steelers and the Bengals, and it has hopefully renewed the rivalry for years to come.

Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

As a Steelers fan, Pittsburgh’s 18-16 win over the Bengals in the Wild Card round of the playoffs last year was so satisfying because it came as a result of the Bengals implosion. That series of events; Jeremy Hill’s fumble, Vontaze Burfict’s hit on Antonio Brown, Joey Porter out on the field, Adam Jones acting like an idiot and putting us into field goal range to win the game. 

If you weren’t watching it, you wouldn’t have believed it.

I don’t know if that means this is the best rivalry in the league right now. I’d guarantee that when the schedule comes out in a couple of months that the Steelers will at least get one game against the Vontaze Burfict-less Bengals and the next game would be towards the end of the regular season when anything could be on the line.

Watching Steelers players like Mike Mitchell tweet goodbyes to Bengals free agents signing with other teams was definitely entertaining, but based on the fans reactions to just free agency I’d say that the Steelers and Ravens rivalry is still first and foremost in the minds of Steelers fans.

The Steelers and Bengals are without a doubt the two best teams in the AFC North and the two most capable of sustaining success, but the Steelers and Ravens’ rivalry spans several years and includes playoff games won and lost.

Hopefully the Steelers and Bengals’ rivalry evolves past just the last season and provides both fan bases with entertaining and hard-fought games for years to come. 

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