The Bengals’ season has been a whirlwind of disappointments. But, a win against the Steelers on Sunday could make the year tolerable.
For Bengals fans, the 2016 campaign has been one to forget. Even though there have been flashes of the team that was advertised during the offseason, the production has been stagnant. Now, with three games left to play, the attention turns to Pittsburgh. Yes, it’s Steelers Week in Cincinnati. A win over the AFC North rivals could give fans something to feel good about.
Here’s the problem. Cincinnati has basically been the bullied little brother of the Steelers for years. Since the early days of the franchise, the Bengals have struggled with the guys from Pittsburgh. Whether it be in blowout fashion or close games, the Bengals just can’t get over the hump with Mike Tomlin’s gang.
Why would a win make this year tolerable? Simple…it’s the Steelers. Of the three games remaining on the Bengals’ schedule, the Week 15 matchup with Tomlin’s gang is the toughest. Not only is a mathematical and mystical playoff berth at stake, there’s the issue of pride. The Steelers have had the upper hand for too long. It’s time to salvage the season with a passionate victory.
A Quick History Lesson
From 1970-1989, the Bengals and Steelers were indeed a true rivalry. Cincinnati was able to knock off the Black and Gold 19 times. The Stripes were beaten 20 times by their northeast nemesis. The competition was mean and nasty. Every game was a test of pride and passion. Pittsburgh’s head coach, Chuck Noll, was a worthy adversary for the Bengals’ coaching staff.
Then there was the Lost Decade. During this dark time in franchise history, the Bengals managed to go 7-18 against the Steelers. That unforgettable passage of time was from 1990-2002. As Noll was bowing out and Bill Cowher took the reigns, the Bengals went 9-22 against Pittsburgh. What was once a spirited rivalry had gone sour…fast.
The Daywalker vs The Walking Dead
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Is it just me or does Tomlin resemble Blade the Daywalker when he wears shades? Just a thought. But, the facts are real. Marvin Lewis is 5-15 against his divisional coaching rival. Beating the Steelers would not only be a breath of fresh air for the players it would also prove Lewis and Co. aren’t flukes.
Riding a modest two-game winning streak has a few fans going insane. True. A win’s a win. But, stomping the struggling Eagles and winless Browns is expected. Coming into the year, this Bengals team was hailed as the returning AFC North conquerors. Heading into Week 15, they stand at 5-7-1 and don’t control their destiny. Tomlin will have the Steelers hyped and ready to play. Lewis needs to do the same. Cincy’s playoff life is hanging by a thread. So, smashing Pittsburgh could make their run to the postseason a bit harder.
Reclaim The Fire
Any true Bengals fan remembers the Super Bowl years. Forrest Gregg and Sam Wyche were championship caliber coaches that had Pitt’s number. Collectively, from 1980-1991, the Bengals were 15-8 against the Stilluhs. Most fans that wave the Terrible Towel will deny the 93-91 record their team compiled during that decade. But, it did happen. That’s when the Bengals had shed the Bungles moniker and looked like a serious franchise.
The Bengals have a chance–a slim prayer–to make the playoffs. But, in order to get that drive going, the execution against the Steelers is paramount.
The game has been flexed from a primetime start to an afternoon showdown but the feel will be the same. Network executives aren’t aware of what the game still means. But Andrew Whitworth does. No matter how overwhelming the odds are, Whitworth says the Bengals will be ready.
"“It’s goal one. There are three big weeks left and it will be a challenge. It’s three really good teams, and so we’ll have an opportunity to really put our will forward. Next week, we have a great opportunity with Pittsburgh coming to our place and what should be a big battle.”"
It’s Steelers Week…this should be good.