Fans of the Cincinnati Bengals have enjoyed some pretty heated rivalries over the years. Of course there's the semiannual "Battle of Ohio" with the Cleveland Browns and all the history with Paul Brown, but really aside from the Boomer v. Bernie years, there's not been that much fire there. The Bengals had a pretty good feud with the Houston Oilers, especially when it was Sam Wyche and Jerry Glanville matching their eccentricities against each other. Recently, the Baltimore Ravens have matched up in some pretty meaningful games as well against Cincinnati.
There's only one team, however, who can get the blood of a Bengals fan boiling just at the mention of their name. Just one NFL franchise who Bengals fans would root against if they were playing Al Qaeda in a football game. That would be the hated Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bengals 101 detailed some of the history of this rivalry earlier this week, but the hatred for the Steelers goes way back. Here are four reasons why Bengals fans hate the Pittsburgh Steelers:
4. The Steel Curtain: I'll be the first to admit. There's a thick layer of resentment, maybe even jealousy that serves as the foundation of this hatred. For those of us who grew up along with the franchise in the 1970s, we look back and see the Steelers as the team that robbed Paul Brown, Ken Anderson, Isaac Curtis, Ken Riley, and all those others of their moment in the sun. Those Bengals teams of the mid-70s very well may have been the second best team in the NFL. The problem was they played in the same division as the best team in the NFL. Paul Brown is in the Hall of Fame, but for what he did in Cleveland, not for his finishing second to Pittsburgh. Anderson and Riley should be enshrined in Canton. Anderson was twice the quarterback Terry Bradshaw was and "The Rattler" was better than Mel Blount, but neither was able to get that elusive ring.
3. Cheap shot artistry: Younger readers of course will recall Kimo von Oelhoffen's hit on Carson Palmer's knee that knocked him out of the playoff game in 2005 and dashed the Bengals' Super Bowl aspirations. And the defense that Kimo was "blocked into" Palmer? Please. The man crawled on all fours and stuck his shoulder into Palmer's planted leg. The hit was so egregious that it spawned revisions of the NFL rule book.
That wasn't the first, nor the last cheap shot from a Pittsburgh player. Who can ever forget that Monday night game in 1983 when Steelers' defensive end Keith Gary tried to decapitate Ken Anderson by grabbing and holding his facemask and twisting his head into a position that made Linda Blair wince. That play ended Anderson's season and effectively Bengals' as well. Or how about Hines Ward's blind side "block" that broke Keith Rivers' jaw in 2008? Lest you think that this is just coming from some whiny Bengals homer, remember Ward was once voted by his peers in a Sports Illustrated poll as the "dirtiest player in the NFL." After knocking Ward out of last week's game with a helmet-to-helmet hit, Ray Lewis was fined this week for the hit. I wouldn't be surprised if he received some donations from other players around the league appreciative of him giving Ward what he had coming. We won't even include Joey Porter's blindsiding Levi Jones in Las Vegas as it happened off the field.
2. Disrespect: For all the talk some offer about the Steelers' tradition of just playing "hard-nosed football," they sure like to run their mouths and show a lack of respect for their opponents while doing it. The aforementioned Hines Ward would be at the top of any current list of Steeler trash talkers, but that tradition goes back as well. It even included long-time radio voice, the late Myron Cope. I love a good "homer" radio voice as much as the next guy (RIP Joe Nuxhall and see Lapham, Dave). Cope took it to another level though. It was Cope who first coined the term "Bungles" and it wasn't just to illustrate the team's mistake prone playing style at the time. Cope also nick-named Sam Wyche "Wicky Wacky." If his nasally Pittsburgh voice wasn't irritating enough, Cope also was the inventor of the "Terrible Towel." He should be vilified for that alone.
Then there was Bill Cowher's locker room mocking of the Bengals' "Who Dey" cheer after the 2005 playoff game. Your team just won a playoff game, coach, and at the time, possibly wrecked the career of their franchise quarterback. Show some class. No, instead, Cowher led his team in the mockery.
1. The Luck of the Irish: I'll be kind and credit the Steelers' (or Stealers in this sense) incredible good fortune over the years to the Rooney family's Irish heritage. Some might think the late Mr. Rooney made a deal with the devil. It all started with the "Immaculate Reception" where running back Franco Harris just happened to be in the right place at the right time to pluck a deflected pass off his shoe tops and race in for the game-winning score against the Oakland Raiders for their first ever playoff win. Then there was the Super Bowl rematch with the Dallas Cowboys where future Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith dropped what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass. It continued in 1980 when Houston's Mike Renfro was inexplicably ruled out of bounds on a touchdown catch in the Steelers-Oilers AFC championship game. Had replay review been in effect at that time, the Oilers, not the Steelers would have gone to the Super Bowl to play the Los Angeles Rams. This play was recently included in the top ten blown calls in all of sports by ESPN.
The entire 2005 Super Bowl season could be on this list. Not only did they manage to play all but two plays on the road in Cincinnati without Carson Palmer, the next week in Indianapolis the Steelers dodged two bullets. First, with Pittsburgh going in for a game clinching score, Jerome Bettis fumbled at the goal line. Colts defensive back Nick Harper picked up the loose ball and appeared to be on his way for a game-winning score when he was brought down by Ben Roethlisberger. How did Big Ben catch a defensive back? It wasn't just his hustle. Harper had been questionable coming into the game because he had been stabbed in the knee the previous night by his wife! If that wasn't enough of a break, the Colts still had maneuvered into position for a game-tying field goal. Mike Vangerjagt was at the time the most accurate kicker in NFL history and had never missed a home playoff kick. He missed from 46 yards out. Then there was the Super Bowl against Seattle where phantom flags from the officials took the Seahawks out of the game.
And when this good fortune of the Steelers is contrasted with the bad fortunes of Cincinnati, one can easily see why there's just a little bit of bad blood that exists between these two clubs. Sunday, that can all change. The Steelers have enjoyed 40 years of all the breaks and have shown little class in doing so. It's time for Lady Luck to be wearing orange and black.
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