The series with the Bengals has been one-sided enough in recent seasons that the Steelers might be temporarily forgiven if they perceive their most dangerous opponent this week to be COVID-19.
Cincinnati, for a while now and especially last season, was laughable. The Bengals were so bad in 2019 they couldn’t beat the Steelers at home in a game in which Mason Rudolph was benched in favor of Duck Hodges.
The Steelers’ winning streak against their one-time bitter AFC North Division rivals is 11 and counting. And Ben Roethlisberger is 23-7 all-time against the Bengals.
With stats such as that, who needs practice?
The 2-5-1 record the Bengals bring with them to Heinz Field, meanwhile, feels recognizable and appropriate.
But this time the Bengals are also bringing Joe Burrow.
Who Dey? It’s a New Dey in Cincinnati thanks to Burrow’s charisma, character and command.
Leopards may not be able to change their spots, but the Burrow-led Bengals are earning their stripes.
The rookie-year-Burrow version of the Bengals is competent and competitive. It’s growing in confidence and it’s fun to watch.
There’s no “Goof on the Roof” in Indiana waiting patiently for the Bengals to finally win a game these days; that’s already happened on two occasions.
Welcome to the Jungle, it’s not as bad today as yesterday.
Somewhere, Carson Palmer and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are smiling.
Are you ready for some football?
The Steelers remain favorites against the Bengals and they ought to be. But Burrow’s presence and the ripple effect it’s had in Cincinnati demands attention and respect.
The Bengals aren’t Tiger Kings yet but they’re getting better.
Acknowledging as much and responding accordingly should be at the top of the Steelers’ to-do list on the way to 9-and-0, right up there with continuing to adhere to all of those intensive COVID-19 protocols.
Attention to detail can catch a tiger by the tail.
It can also keep things one-sided in a rivalry that’s about to get a whole lot more exciting.
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