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Do the Bengals and Steelers actually have a rivalry? 2 fans debate

The state of the Bengals-Steelers AFC North rivalry is tense. How did we get to this point and where does the rivalry go from here?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As part of SB Nation’s NFL Rivalry Week, we did something that doesn’t often happen on the internet. We organized a civil conversation between a Cincinnati Bengals fan (Rebecca Toback) and a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (Alex Kirshner) on the state of their teams’ rivalry.

Rebecca: When did we get to a point when the Bengals vs. Steelers “rivalry” was so much less rivalry and so much more pure hatred? It’s pretty much made it so that as a Bengals fan, I hate “Steelers week.” And not just because I expect the Bengals to always lose, which I do. But because it’s not fun anymore.

Alex: Was it when our lineman tore Carson Palmer’s knee to pieces in, like, 2005? I feel like that was a real steppingstone.

Rebecca: Kimo von Oelhoffen. There’s no Bengals fan who doesn’t remember that moment … and his name.

Alex: Sometime around that, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh stomped a Terrible Towel or something. Yinzers HATED that, too.

Rebecca: Oh yes, Housh wiping his cleats with a terrible towel was so great … but also didn’t really lead to much good as some feel that became a curse for the Bengals.

Alex: We (as in, Pittsburgh folk) love taking things extremely personally. There’s never been anything more easy to take personally. And after the Terrible Towel thing, I think a lot of Steelers fans saw the Bengals as these total heels who hadn’t done anything to merit that status.

Rebecca: From an unbiased perspective that seems fair. Though, screw unbiased perspectives. That idea of the Bengals not having the merit to do something like that kind of goes hand in hand with the Steelers not considering the Bengals their top rival, even though it’s safe to say most Bengals fans consider the Steelers their top rival.

Alex: I think you’re right. We’re really elitist about this. The Bengals are not our ONE TRUE RIVAL. And that’s kind of funny, because Steelers fans like to think of the Patriots as some kind of serious rival even though that “rivalry” is about as competitive as the one between an 18-wheeler and a deer.

The Bengals are to the Steelers what the Steelers are to the Patriots, is what I’m saying.

Rebecca: I was going to say exactly that — in a sad and defeated way.

There is something that Steelers and Bengals fans can agree on: the Browns

Rebecca: Where would you rank the Bengals on the list of the Steelers’ rivals?

Alex: I’d say:

1. Ravens
2. Patriots (lmao)
3. Bengals
4. Browns

Rebecca: This is how I see it for the Bengals:

1. Steelers (we never win)
2. Ravens (we almost always win and the games are really fun)
3. Browns (lol, Browns)

Alex: The Browns are that lovable cousin sitting in the corner at Thanksgiving. Well, lovable maybe isn’t the word. That cousin.

Rebecca: There have even been points this year where I was rooting for the Browns! And not only when they were playing the Steelers.

It’s like they’re so bad that you want them to finally do something.

Alex: I think we can bond over that.

Rebecca: … and then go back to hating each other.

Let’s talk about that infamous AFC Wild Card game

Rebecca: How do you feel the January 2016 playoff game (which I usually opt to forget ever happened) plays into the feud between these teams?

Alex: It’s funny to me from the standpoint that only you guys could have lost it. But that’s pretty much the only feeling I have about it.

Wait, one more:

I am surprised that Ben Roethlisberger didn’t come out in a wheelchair for that last drive for dramatic effect.

Rebecca: hahah, diva Big Ben is my favorite.

For me, that just cemented how much I hate the Steelers. Between Mike Munchak pulling Reggie Nelson’s hair and not getting in trouble for it, and then Joey Porter on the field, when he had no business being on the field — it was all quintessential Steelers BS.

Sure, the Bengals bungled the game (ugh, did I just say that?). But, there was just so much more than that.

Alex: My favorite thing about that game was the broadcast shot of all the Bengals fans on that escalator that looks like it falls out of the sky.

But you make fair points.

I don’t know what the Bengals expected when they designed their stadium with that escalator in it. Just total malpractice from a PR standpoint.

Rebecca: Another of the saddest things was the woman they showed crying, who became a meme.

But now she totally embraces her role as the sad fan shown crying during the game and even has a Twitter account.

Alex: I do feel bad about that. You’ve touched my human side.

Rebecca: Who knew Steelers fans were human?

Alex: I prefer Bengal fan sadness to just be one big mass of orange.

A Steelers fan explains why Bengals fans shouldn’t give up hope

Alex: I will say one thing for you guys. At some point, it’ll happen. Pittsburgh fans had this in hockey for a while too, with the Capitals. The Caps couldn’t beat the Penguins.

Do you know what happened in 2018?

Rebecca: They finally won the Stanley Cup.

Alex: And they had to beat the Penguins to do it, and the law of averages says that’ll happen to the Steelers eventually. Maybe in like 2045.

Rebecca: Bengals fans have been waiting for 51 years to win a Super Bowl. 27 years to win a playoff win.

Alex: Sounds tough. Could not relate myself.

Rebecca: And then we have to deal with Steelers fans flashing all the rings in our face.

Alex: Well, I don’t wear jewelry, but ...

How they see the rest of the season playing out

Rebecca: So despite the Bengals being really bad in recent weeks, they’re still alive in the playoff hunt and have a bunch of bad teams coming up on the schedule. There’s a relatively solid chance that the Bengals/Steelers game in Week 17 has playoff implications — more likely for us, than you — and then there’s a chance the Bengals and Steelers actually meet in the playoffs … again.

That would pretty much be my worst nightmare.

I basically expect the Bengals to make the playoff, lose immediately, and then MAYBE Marvin Lewis will actually be fired. But more realistically, they make the playoffs, lose, again, Lewis is retained and we wash, rinse, and repeat it all again next season.

Alex: I can guarantee you that Steelers fans are hoping for precisely that outcome.