The Pittsburgh Steelers have not won a playoff game since the 2010 season, in the AFC Championship game. They have only played in three playoff games since then, including the Super Bowl after their last victory, and are riding a three-game playoff losing streak coming into Ohio today.
But that Ohio team, the Cincinnati Bengals, is working on a far more impressive drought than the Steelers could hope to overcome, and either way, one of these AFC North streaks will come to an end—as a matter of fact, the Bengals have not even won a playoff game when the AFC North began in the early 2000s.
Today will be the 19th playoff game in Bengals history, the fifth consecutive season with a playoff game, and the sixth playoff season in the past seven. This is the seventh playoff appearance dating back to the 2005 season, when Cincinnati lost, at home, to the Steelers.
That matchup is the only time that these two teams have ever faced each other in the postseason, with Pittsburgh winning 31-17, of course, after Carson Palmer suffered an early injury and the Bengals had to use a backup quarterback. They will have another backup quarterback today.
Cincinnati had a 15-year playoff drought from 1991 to 2005. The last playoff victory that they have recorded was during the Wildcard weekend of the 1990 season when they defeated the Oilers at home, 41-14, going on to lose in the next round.
Overall, the Bengals have just five postseason wins, including one in the 1988 AFC Championship game over the Bills, after which they went on to lose to the 49ers in their most recent Super Bowl appearance. They also captured an earlier AFC Championship title in 1981, also going on to lose to the 49ers. Their overall postseason record is 5-13 heading into the day, spanning 13 playoff seasons.
As for the Steelers, they enter this contest with a much richer back story, having made the playoffs now 28 times since 1972. In that span, they have recorded 33 victories, including six in the Super Bowl and eight in the AFC Championship game, versus 21 losses.
But the three-game postseason losing streak that they are currently riding is tied for the longest in franchise history, and a loss today would make it the single longest, passing the previous mark that began in the 1989 season in the divisional round, followed by divisional and then wildcard losses in 1992 and 1993.
With a victory today, however, the Steelers could tie the Cowboys for the most playoff victories in NFL history with 34, but what they would really like to most improve upon is their record on the road in the postseason, especially given that they are guaranteed to play all away games as the sixth seed.
In 17 total road playoff games, the Steelers have posted just a 7-10 record, with their most recent road game being a loss to the Broncos during the 2011 season. But this will be just the second road playoff game since the 2005 season, when they won three straight away from home en route to the organization’s fifth Super Bowl championship.