The Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to defy expectations in the season opener when they were able to take their team up to Buffalo and knock down the Bills. Even if it wasn’t the most glamorous performance, particularly on offense, it did provide some hope, and certainly didn’t presage the three-game losing streak that followed.
The second of three straight losses came to the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the teams they’re currently looking up at in the divisional standings, a game that they frankly closed in uninspiring fashion amid a 24-10 loss, on both sides of the ball.
After that game, Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd—a Pittsburgh graduate and area native—said of his hometown team, “the last plays of the game for them, they gave up. You could see it. They had three drops in a row. To see that, that’s giving us more power. To give us the antidote to know how good we are”.
It was a very ugly sequence to end the game, and certainly the body language wasn’t great, either, but that’s still a strong declaration, especially coming in your own division and against a team that has traditionally had your number, while riding a years-long streak of losing seasons yourself.
The Steelers, heading into the second head-to-head matchup of the schedule, aren’t fussed about it, though. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt told reporters that they haven’t discussed it this week. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, when asked about it, said that “it just sounds nice after a W. We’re not worried about what he said”.
Since that game, the Steelers have gone 4-2-1, while the Bengals have gone 4-3, so they’ve been roughly on the same trajectory. With a game in hand, however, in the head to head, the Bengals have the advantage. They also, of course, have the better record, and are playing in their own stadium.
In fact, five of the Bengals’ final seven games are at home, after having a five-out-seven streak earlier in the season on the road. Their schedule isn’t the easiest, however, including games against the Chargers and Chiefs, and another game against the Ravens.
Cincinnati has finished under .500 for five consecutive seasons, going 6-25-1 over the past two seasons under head coach Zac Taylor, but he’s already matched that win total in 10 games this year. The Bengals are just a game out in the division, and can certainly compete for a playoff spot.
That is if they’re able to take care of business in the AFC North, and in their home stadium. And they don’t generally hand out ‘bulletin board material’. But the Steelers, at least publicly, don’t appear to have ever taken the bait on Boyd’s now months-old comments.