The Bengals–Steelers rivalry is a National Football League (NFL) rivalry between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two teams have played each other twice a year since becoming division rivals in 1970. Originally placed in the AFC Central following the 1970 AFL–NFL merger, the two teams currently compete in that division's successor, the AFC North.
1970–73: Beginning of the rivalry
Prior to 1970, the Steelers were members of the NFL and the Bengals were part of the AFL. However, as part of the AFL-NFL merger, the two teams were placed in the AFC Central division along with the NFL's Cleveland Browns and the AFL's Houston Oilers. Thus, the Bengals and Steelers have played each other twice every season since (except the strike-shortened 1982 campaign).
The Steelers defeated the Bengals in their first meeting, 21–10 at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. However, the Bengals would win the rematch in Cincinnati 34–7 during a 7-game winning streak that pushed the Bengals to the division championship.
The Steelers would win four of the next six meetings to take a 5–3 series lead early in its history.
1974–79: Steelers' Super Bowl dynasty
The Steelers dominated the rivalry – and the entire NFL – mid-to-late 1970s, posting a 9–3 record against the Bengals during this time. The Steelers won four Super Bowls during these six years.
The Steelers were led by their "Steel Curtain" defense, as they held the Bengals to 17 points or less during ten of the twelve meetings during this stretch. The Steelers were also able to win two games despite scoring a single touchdown as they won 7–3 in 1976 and 7–6 in 1978 – the two lowest-scoring games in the history of the rivalry. The Steelers would also win six straight games from 1974–1977.
One bright spot for the Bengals occurred in their 1979 meeting in Cincinnati. The Bengals, who were 0–6 entering the game, forced nine Steelers turnovers on their way to a 34–10 blowout win over the Steelers.
1980–90: Bengals' resurgence
On October 12, 1980, the Bengals defeated the Steelers 17–16 at Three Rivers Stadium, snapping the Steelers' 18-game home winning streak and their undefeated 10–0 record at home against the Bengals. This game, along with an earlier Bengals' win in Cincinnati, were the only two losses for the then-4–2 Steelers, as they eventually finished 9–7, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1971.
The Bengals swept the 1981 season series as well, on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance.
Because of the 1982 NFL Players Strike, the game in Cincinnati that season was cancelled. The Steelers won the only meeting of the year in Pittsburgh, 26-20 in overtime. This marks the only season in which the Steelers and Bengals did not meet twice.
The Bengals closed the gap of the Steelers' lead throughout the 1980s. On November 6, 1988, the Bengals defeated the Steelers 42–7, the largest margin of victory for either team in the series. The Bengals went on to Super Bowl XXIII that season, their most recent appearance in a Super Bowl.
The Bengals won six straight meetings from 1988–1990, which gave them a 21–20 lead in the overall series after the 1990 season. To date, this is the only time the Bengals led the series.
1991–2003: Steelers in contention, Bengals struggle
The Steelers returned to dominating the rivalry in the 1990s. Immediately following the Bengals' six-game winning streak, Pittsburgh won eight straight meetings from 1991–1994.
On November 30, 1992, the Steelers sacked Bengals quarterback David Klingler ten times, one short of the single-game NFL record,en route to a 21–9 Steelers win. Combined with a 20–0 victory earlier in the season, the Steelers did not allow a touchdown to the Bengals in either of their two meetings that year.
On October 19, 1995, the Bengals defeated the Steelers, 27–9 on Thursday Night Football. Despite outgaining the Bengals by 100 yards, the Steelers could not reach the end zone. In their second game that season, the Bengals had a 31–13 lead in the third quarter, but the Steelers scored 36 unanswered points to win 49–31. The Steelers would play in Super Bowl XXX that season, but lose to the Dallas Cowboys.
In 1998, the Bengals struggled to a 3–13 record, however, two of those wins came against the Steelers, as the Bengals earned their first sweep of the Steelers since 1990, and these two led to Bill Cowher's first losing season as Steelers head coach.
Both teams opened new stadiums in the early 2000s. The Bengals opened Paul Brown Stadium in 2000 and the Steelers opened Heinz Field. The two teams opened Heinz Field on October 7, 2001, a 16–7 Steelers win. The Steelers dominated the series in the early 2000s as they were perennial playoff contenders, while the Bengals finished near the bottom of the league.
2004–present: The Ben Roethlisberger era
Both teams drafted franchise quarterbacks in the early-to-mid 2000s. The Bengals drafted Carson Palmer first overall in 2003, while the Steelers selected Ben Roethlisberger in the first round the following year. Roethlisberger's Steelers have posted a 24–7 record against the Bengals, including wins in two playoff meetings.
The Steelers and Bengals met in the Playoffs for the first time in a 2005 AFC Wild Card game in Cincinnati. The Bengals lost Palmer to an injury on their first drive, but built a 17–7 lead. The Steelers to score 24 unanswered points to defeat the Bengals, 31–17. The Steelers would go on to win Super Bowl XL that season.
The Steelers swept the Bengals in 2007 and 2008, on their way to consecutive division titles and a Super Bowl XLIII win following the 2008 season.
In 2009, the Bengals swept the Steelers and won all of their division game for the first time in franchise history. The game in Cincinnati marked Roethlisberger's first loss in his home state of Ohio, having previously been 10–0 at Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Palmer announced his intention to retire after the 2010 season (although he would later return to the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals) and the Bengals drafted Andy Dalton in 2011. The Steelers continued to dominate the rivalry, going 13–3 against Dalton's Bengals.
The teams' second postseason meeting occurred in the 2015 AFC Wild Card game in Cincinnati. The Steelers built a 15–0 after three quarters, however Roethlisberger had left the game due to an injury. Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron, starting for an injured Dalton, led the Bengals to 16 straight points. However, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier would force Bengals running back Jeremy Hill to fumble and the Steelers recovered the loose ball. Roethlisberger returned and led the Steelers on their final drive. On an incomplete pass to Antonio Brown, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a brutal and concussing blow to Brown's head; the hit subsequently led to the suspension of Burfict for the first three games of 2016. Immediately afterwards, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones was flagged for a personal foul due to an altercation with Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter. From there, Steelers kicker Chris Boswell made the game-winning field goal from 35 yards.
In a 2017 game, the Bengals took a 17–0 lead, but the Steelers outscored them 23–3 the rest of the game for 23–20 win. The game was a brutal affair with serious injuries to Shazier, Mixon and Burfict and subsequent suspensions to JuJu Smith-Schuster and George Iloka (with the Iloka's later being overturned). The two teams clocked up four penalties for unnecessary roughness, one for unsportsmanlike conduct, one for roughing the passer and another for taunting. The Bengals themselves clocked up 13 penalties for 173 yards.
In 2018, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a come-from behind 28–21 win with a late touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. During that game, Burfict was fined $112,000 for illegal hits on Brown and Steelers running back James Conner. There was also controversy surrounding the next play when Burfict pointed at JuJu Smith-Schuster and told him "You're next." In their first meeting of the 2019 season, the Steelers, led by backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, defeated the Bengals for a record ninth time in a row.
|Cincinnati Bengals vs.Pittsburgh Steelers Season-by-Season Results|
1970s (Steelers, 14–6)
1980s (Bengals, 13–6)
1990s (Steelers, 13–7)
2000s (Steelers, 15–6)
2010s (Steelers, 17–3)
Summary of Results
- Clark, Dave (29 November 2017). "5 times Cincinnati Bengals got best of Pittsburgh Steelers". Cincinnati.com. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
- "1980: Bengals Upset Steelers to Snap Home Winning Streak". Pro Football history. 12 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
- Klingler Runs, but Can't Hide : AFC: Steelers sack Bengal rookie 10 times, Foster breaks Harris' rushing records in 21-9 victory.
- Today in Bengals history
- Patra, Kevin. "JuJu Smith-Schuster, George Iloka each suspended for one game". NFL. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
- "Vontaze Burfict fined $112k for hits vs. Steelers". NFL. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
- "Bengals at Steelers final score: Pittsburgh rides ground game, defense in 27-3 rout of hapless rivals". CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2019-10-03.