Bengals Flashback: 3 memorable moments vs. Steelers

Jessie Bates III #30, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jessie Bates III #30, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

The bitter rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers has been heated for 51 years. Before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, these two teams never met, then when the merger came, they became division rivals and the hatred was immediately born.

The Steelers have owned the series leading 67-36, including 2-0 in the postseason. However, that doesn’t mean the Bengals haven’t had many shining moments. Let’s take a look at some of the best moments though.

Nov. 6, 1988 – Bengals Win by Greatest Margin of Victory in Series

The 1988 season happened to be one of those rare seasons that was going the right way for the Bengals and all wrong for the Steelers. After Terry Bradshaw retired in 1983, the Steelers struggled for quite some time until getting Bill Cowher, Neil O’Donnell & then Kordell Stewart in the ’90s.

During that time, they floated between quarterbacks struggling to find success. On the reverse side, the ’80s were a prosperous time for the Bengals, as they went to the 1982 (season) Super Bowl, drafted Boomer Esiason in ’84, and to close the decade in ’88 they’d appear in their second Super Bowl, losing both to Joe Montana and the 49ers.

In the 1988 Super Bowl campaign, the Bengals defeated the Steelers 42-7. This is the greatest margin of victory in the series all-time, which is a record that still holds to this day. This is shocking considering how the Steelers have owned this series.

Esiason had 318 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. Icky Woods had 110 yards on 10 carries, but unfortunately, no one got to see the Icky Shuffle since James Brooks had all the rushing touchdowns for the Bengals (three total). Also, Cris Collinsworth had one reception for 36 yards.

1998 – Bengals Sweep Steelers while going 3-13

Boomer Esiason only played nine seasons with the Bengals, ending his tenure in 1993. However, his last few years in Cincy were not good. After the 1990 season, the Bengals didn’t have a season of .500 or better until 2003 when they went 8-8.

These abysmal 90’s seasons are what earned the team the Bungles nickname. Poor drafting, poor coaching, and poor front office management enabled a decade-plus of garbage in Cincinnati. However, even in the most downtrodden of seasons, it still feels great to beat your rival.

Neil O’Donnell was released by the Steelers at the end of the ’95 season and played for the Jets for two seasons before signing with the Bengals in 1998. He only played one season and started 11 games before being released at the end of the ’98 season so the Bengals could draft Akili Smith (Shudder).

In Week 6, the Bengals were 1-3 and the Steelers were 3-1. The Steelers were leading the entire game until the last 38 seconds when O’Donnell threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Carl Pickens.

Then in Week 16, the Bengals were 2-12 and the Steelers were 7-7. Jeff Blake got the start for the Bengals. The Steelers took the lead in the fourth getting up 24-22, then late in the fourth quarter, Doug Pelfrey kicked a 21-yard field goal to make it 25-24. The Bengals held on to secure their third victory of the season.

Dec. 23, 2012– Week 16 was a must-win to earn a Wild Card spot.

Late in the 2012 season, the Ravens had earned the division title by Week 16. With the Ravens locking up the division, the Bengals and Steelers were going to be fighting it out with the winner likely determining who would make it to the playoffs between the two. The Steelers already had the tie-breaker with a win over the Bengals earlier in the season.

However, Cincy did have a 1.5 game lead on the Steelers sitting at 9-6 while Pittsburgh was sitting at 7-7. If the Bengals won, they’d clinch the Wild Card spot. If they lost, there was still a shot they could make it, but they would need to beat the Ravens in Week 17 and the Steelers would have to lose…to the Browns (back then, this wasn’t something that happened).

In effect, this became an unofficial playoff game for the Bengals and a must-win game in order to keep their season alive. Cincy answered the call winning a bitterly tough defensive battle.

The difference-maker in this defensive battle was fittingly a defensive play. Late in the first quarter, Leon Hall picked off Big Ben and took it to the house to take the lead 7-0. The Bengals never gave up the lead even though Pittsburgh tied the game 10-10 in the third quarter.

With four seconds left, Josh Brown kicked the game-winning field goal sending the Bengals to the postseason, effectively ending the Steelers season, even with one game to play.

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What are your favorite Bengals/Steelers memories?