Put simply, the Cincinnati Bengals are historically one of the very worst franchises in the modern history of the NFL. I don’t believe there is any team with a longer playoff win drought than theirs, as just one shining example of their organizational futility, which remarkably now extends 30 years. The last time they won a postseason game was in 1990.
But they did have a five-year span over the past decade in which they were a top-10 team in football. They earned a couple of division titles and five consecutive spots in the playoffs to show for it—even though they had a first-round exit every time.
The seeming renaissance of the flailing organization was ignited by the 2011 draft class that was helmed by wide receiver A.J. Green at number four overall, who would go on to become the first wide receiver to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons.
Formerly a model of consistency year in and year out, injuries and age have robbed him of much of what he once possessed, or so it seems. He has caught just 41 of 88 targets this year for 419 yards, and has gotten into the end zone only twice, despite not missing a game. But he only has three drops, and is coming off one of his best games of the year.
Could this be his last game as part of the Steelers-Bengals rivalry, though? After missing all of the 2019 season due to a foot injury, he his playing this season under the franchise tag. Green in the past insisted that he wanted to spend his whole career in Cincinnati and pushed for a long-term deal that he didn’t get.
After this season, it’s not clear that either side wants to continue the relationship. The Bengals have Tyler Boyd and now productive rookie Tee Higgins to go along with their new quarterback, Joe Burrow. They will surely draft another wide receiver in 2021 with a top-50 pick.
“My wife, my family, my boys, we are going to sit down and make the best decision that is going to be best for my career”, he said recently. “Right now, we don’t know what that looks like right now but we prepare for anything.” He added that he’s “living in the moment right now”, and that “whatever is going to happen is going to happen”.
Green has done well against the Steelers over the years, including three 100-yard games, even a 200-yard game mixed in. When they played earlier this year, however, he was held without a catch despite being targeted five times.
This could be his final chance to leave a mark on the rivalry. Now in his 10th season in the NFL and 32 years old, his playing days are nearly over as well. It’s unfortunate that injuries have sidelined him in recent years.