In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Heinz Field in what figures to be yet another hard-hitting AFC North game full of emotion. While several players on both teams have attempted to somewhat downplay the rivalry and bad blood between the two teams this week, the officiating crew assigned to the Week 2 matchup has reportedly been put on high alert ahead of the game because of the recent history between the two teams.
“Before every game we provide the crew with a scouting report [along with video clips] for the two teams. If there is a history between two teams, or players, that could lead to issues like we had last year then we include it in the report,” NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino reportedly told Adam Caplan of ESPN. “The issues that came up last year will be covered with the crew for this game. All crews are directed to set the tone early in games so the players understand where the line is, and that should be consistent for all games, but just based on the history there will be a heightened awareness for this one.”
As if you need to be reminded, more than $200,000 in fines were reportedly handed out to various players in the past two meetings between the Steelers and the Bengals and none of us will likely ever forget what happened during last year’s AFC Wild Card game between the two AFC North teams that included Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict cheap-shotting Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown late in the contest and cornerback Adam Jones quickly following that hit up by taking a run at Pittsburgh linebacker coach Joey Porter.
While Burfict will miss Sunday’s game due him being suspended for his hit on Brown last January, Steelers linebacker Vince Williams will play and he certainly provided a few tasty soundbites Thursday morning to help liven things up.
According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network, while Williams was adamant on Thursday that no “extra” animosity currently exist for Bengals, he’s still looking forward to playing against them on Sunday.
“We want to beat up on everybody. We want to treat everyone terribly,” Williams reportedly said.
Williams, however, delivered an even better quote on Thursday, according to Kinkhabwala.
“We are equal opportunity ass-whoopers. This week is no different,” the Steelers fourth-year linebacker said.
Williams, if you remember, took issue with the hit Burfict applied to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell during last year’s first meeting between the two teams that resulted in a season-ending knee injury. After that Week 8 game, Williams posted a tweet on his Twitter account that Burfict and other Bengals players regarded as a death threat. He later deleted that tweet and issued a statement in which he refused to apologize for it but also said he shouldn’t have taken his feelings to Twitter.
According to the pregame official assignments for Week 2, 20-year veteran referee Pete Morelli and his crew will officiate Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Bengals. In case you’re curious, Sunday will mark the 12th time that Morelli has been the head referee for a Steelers game. It will, however, be his first Steelers-Bengals game, according to my research.
The Steelers are 6-5 in games that Morelli was the head referee for dating back to 2005. The Bengals, on the other hand, are 3-4 in the 7 games that Morelli was the head referee for and also dating back to 2005.