For the Cincinnati Bengals, it is understandable why they might view the Pittsburgh Steelers are their chief rivals. It would seem the logical choice for outside observers as well given the violent and competitive tone that their recent games have taken. It would also seem logical that the Steelers would feel reciprocation in that rivalry.
But for many Steelers players, they still have the Baltimore Ravens as the chief target in their crosshairs. The reason? It’s quite simple: they have been winning, and there is nobody that you want to beat more than the people who are beating you, especially when you are expected to be the one doing the beating.
That was the position in which the Steelers found themselves last year as the Ravens crawled to a dismal 5-11 season, with 40 percent of their victories coming against a Pittsburgh team that advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
While the Ravens managed just a 3-3 divisional record, with two losses being handed to them by the Bengals, they edged out the Steelers twice, the first coming in Week Four, with Pittsburgh admittedly without Ben Roethlisberger. But had Josh Scobee made either of his fourth-quarter field goal misses, Pittsburgh likely wins. This was the game that got away, or so the reasoning went.
The rematch came much later in the season, in Week 16, while the Steelers were absolutely on a roll offensively, having put up at least 30 points in six straight games. And they had the good fortune to be facing a team full of backups, including the recently-acquired Ryan Mallett at quarterback. But the road team laid an egg and fell 20-17.
Over the course of the past five seasons, the Ravens are 8-3 against the Steelers, including a postseason victory in the Wildcard Round during the 2014 playoffs after both teams advanced, with Pittsburgh winning the division after beating Cincinnati twice late in the season.
As for Pittsburgh’s recent history with the Bengals, while they lost their opening game to the eventual division winners last year, they won the rematch, and then they won the all-important tiebreaker in the Wildcard round with an unlikely comeback.
As the Steelers with the Ravens, the Bengals only hold three victories over their rivals from Pittsburgh over the course of the past five seasons, so it’s no wonder that they have turned up the fire on the field in recent years. But the Steelers have more often than not come out on top, particularly when it counted the most.
Until that changes, the Steelers themselves will still be circling the games against the Ravens a bit heavier than the ones against the Bengals. Markus Wheaton said that “they got us last year. You want to get the win. That’s more important than theatrics”.
Stephon Tuitt added, “we’ve got to beat them. We beat Cincinnati. We have to beat the Ravens. It’s been like that every time”. The message seems clear. If you really want to get into Pittsburgh’s heads, then you better let the scoreboard do the talking for you.