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New Steelers Getting Brought Up To Speed About Bengals Rivalry

When it comes to rivalries, every player in the locker room understands what the deal is. Or if not, they’ll be quick to find out. Already, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, about to face the Cincinnati Bengals for the first time, has been given pointers about what it will be like to face them.

While he has already faced two of the Steelers’ three division rivals, neither the Browns nor, stunningly, even the Ravens, have offered a similar level of physicality and emotionally-charged intensity as have the matchups against the Bengals over the course of the past few years.

Speaking to reporters about playing against Cincinnati for the first time and what he has been told to expect, the rookie said that Eli Rogers told him, “’one play [Vontaze Burfict] hit me so hard I thought I broke my hand’. I really gotta watch the middle, be careful”.

It’s not just Burfict, of course, as the entire series has become quite physical over the course of the past few years as the two teams have become more and more equally competitive—though last season was obviously a down year for the Bengals.

But that is with Smith-Schuster is used to in his game, and what he is ready to deliver in turn. “This is what I bring to the table”, said. “Willing to block and not be afraid to get in there, make those dirty blocks”. ‘Dirty’, of course, being used with a bit of creative license.

Over the course of the past four weeks, the rookie has been given the second-most snaps among wide receivers behind only Antonio Brown, outsnapping Martavis Bryant by a fairly significant proportion on Sunday as they focused more on running the ball.

The 20-year-old has already endeared himself to his teammates, as well as his coaches—of course, otherwise he would not be playing. But his physicality at the wide receiver position, and perhaps particularly from the slot, would seem to be perfectly suited to matching up in a physical game such as Sunday’s seems destined to be.

He won’t be the only rookie getting his first taste of the Bengals, as T.J. Watt, also in the starting lineup on the defensive side of the ball, will inevitably seeing a good chunk of the playing time. It hasn’t taken rookies long to gain an understanding of what these rivalries mean.

And while the rivalry with the Ravens might remain the most portentous, I think it’s fair to say that the Bengals have offered a more intense and physical opponent in recent years, as evidenced by the number of fines that have stemmed from those games on both sides—even a coach getting a fine.

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