It may be a big of old news by now, considering that the Pittsburgh Steelers are now looking ahead with their sights set on the playoffs, but it shouldn’t be forgotten what path they are just converging from on their quest for another Lombardi Trophy.
The Steelers concluded their slate of games for the regular season with three straight contests against each of their division opponents, each of them proving to be a test of endurance, and, at times, patience. None proved to be more fiery than the one against the Cincinnati Bengals, who were looking to play spoiler for the Steelers.
It looked to be in the cards after the home team, the Bengals, secured a 20-9 lead in the first half, but the defense held them to no points in the second, and the offense finished the game with 18 unanswered points, and the win.
Within those 60 minutes, however, was a lot of extracurricular behavior, as there so often has been between these two teams in recent years. Yet, in spite of that, the Steelers players have consistently maintained that they view the Ravens as their true rivals, and not the Bengals, even if there have been more tensions in the latter.
Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was recently on Pro Football Talk Live, during which he talked about the Bengals, and provided an insight into how they are viewed in Pittsburgh’s locker room. It probably did not go in as flattering a fashion as the Bengals might have liked.
“The Ravens are more of a rivalry”, he said when asked about Cincinnati, “and the Bengals, we treat them like little brothers that get on our nerves”. That has got to sting a bit, considering all of the vitriol that comes from the direction of Ohio.
It makes sense, though, to consider the team you lose to your rivals, and the team you beat your annoying little brothers. Prior to the Christmas win over the Ravens, the Steelers had lost four games in a row, and nine of their previous 12.
The Steelers have now beaten the Bengals in seven of their previous eight meetings, and in 12 of the previous 15—17 of the previous 22. The Steelers beat the Bengals a lot, is what I’m saying.
“They constantly bug you”, Shazier said of Cincinnati. “They try to get on your nerves and try to find a way to beat the big brother but they never can”. He said that “the big brother always finds a way and I feel like that’s how we are. We find a way no matter what. They have athletes over there, they got a good team over there, but I feel like we’re just the big brothers”.
“I think we mentally got them beat and I know how important it is to a lot of our guys”. With the Steelers’ Christmas Day victory over the Ravens that knocked them out of the playoffs and ended a four-game losing streak against them, perhaps they underwent a mental exorcism of sorts in their true rivalry as well.