If you want to see an NFL rivalry with genuine hate and disdain for the other team, look no further than the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two franchises have spent 50-plus years in the same division and they have grown to seriously hate one another. More times than not, that comes through when the games are played. If you don’t believe us, let’s look back at some of the most heated moments in the Bengals-Steelers rivalry.
True rivals know how to rub salt in the wound. That’s exactly what Cincinnati wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh when the Bengals beat the Steelers 38-31 in Week 13. Houshmandzadeh used one of Pittsburgh’s famous Terrible Towels to give himself a shoeshine, a gesture that Steelers fans took with great offense.
That win helped the Bengals win a division title and reach the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. However, Karma came back to bite Houshmandzadeh and the Bengals when they lost to Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Round.
The Forgotten Comeback
After falling behind 17-0 on a Monday night in 2017, the Steelers rallied to beat the Bengals 23-20 as part of a 13-3 season. Ordinarily, the comeback and Le’Veon Bell’s 181 all-purpose yards would be the story. However, that game is also known for JuJu Smith-Schuster giving Vontaze Burfict a concussion on a vicious hit that got him suspended.
To be fair, both teams racked up tons of penalty yards on a slew of unnecessary roughness, taunting, and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The Bengals ended the game with 173 yards on 13 penalties. Finally, this was the game that Pittsburgh’s Ryan Shazier suffered his career-ending injury.
2005 Wild Card Game
As mentioned, after Houshmandzadeh shined his shoe with a Terrible Towel, the Steelers quickly got their revenge in the playoffs. On Cincinnati’s second offensive play of the game, Carson Palmer tore up his knee thanks to a hit from Pittsburgh’s Kimo Von Oelhoffen that made him a villain in Cincinnati.
Without Palmer, the Bengals still managed to take a 17-7 lead. But the Steelers dominated from there, coming back to win 31-17 on their way to becoming the first no. 6 seed to win the Super Bowl, which undoubtedly made the loss all the more bitter for the Bengals.
2014 Season Finale
Let’s just call this game mutually-assured destruction. The AFC North title was on the line with the Bengals and Steelers meeting in Week 17. Antonio Brown was the star of the show, returning a punt for a touchdown and then catching a 63-yard touchdown pass to secure a 27-17 win for the Steelers.
However, the game was so physical that both teams paid the price the following week. With Le’Veon Bell hurt, the Steelers lost to the Ravens in the Wild Card Round. The Bengals met a similar fate the following week against the Texans with A.J. Green unavailable due to injury following the battle with the Steelers.
2015 Wild Card Game
Honestly, you should just watch the highlights from this game because words don’t do it justice. Vontaze Burfict’s hit on Antonio Brown is the most memorable part of this game (of course, for all of the wrong reasons). That turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. Assistant coaches on Pittsburgh’s sideline were involved in multiple confrontations. Ben Roethlisberger left the game with an injury but came back, only after Bengals fans threw things at him while he was carted off to the locker room.
It was nothing short of insanity and included a crazy ending as well. Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill fumbled while the Bengals were trying to just run out the clock. The Steelers got the ball and kicked the game-winning field goal to win 18-16 in perhaps the craziest playoff game in NFL history.