Pretty much everything went the Steelers’ way in yesterday’s 33-20 win over Cincinnati, a game that held both insult and injury for the Bengals. For the former, there was William Gay’s minute-long touchdown celebration, that continued up to and through an excessive-celebration flag. For the latter, a fractured right thumb for Andy Dalton, who is reportedly done for the season. But to make things even more interesting, these two teams appear to genuinely dislike each other. Nothing’s more AFC North than real bad blood.
The background you need on this comes from Week 8, when Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell was carted off with season-ending ligament tears. Some Steelers players accused Cincinnati LB Vontaze Burfict of putting a dirty hit on Bell, and celebrating it. O-lineman Ramon Foster said Burfict is “that type of guy,” who “will get his sooner or later.”
Steelers LB Vince Williams then took to Twitter and offered what the Bengals interpreted as a physical threat to Burfict—LT Andrew Whitworth said Bengals players were upset the NFL took no action against Williams, so they took it into their own hands. The two teams scuffled during warmups, a pushing-and-shoving match that featured Burfict headbutting Williams.
The animosity continued after kickoff, including a first-half play where Burfict appeared to dive at the legs of Ben Roethlisberger:
Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira said Burfict should have been flagged.
The acrimony wasn’t confined to the field. The morning before the game, Bengals CB Adam “Pacman” Jones took to Instagram to give the Steelers a message that included “shut the fuck up and play football.”
Well, the Steelers did play football, and they played it better than the Bengals did. After the game, Jones wasn’t backing down.
If the season ended right now, the Bengals would still get the AFC’s second bye—and the Steelers would be out, losing the tiebreakers to the similarly 8-5 Jets and
Colts Chiefs. But a lot can change in three weeks, especially with the Bengals seemingly forced to turn the offense over to backup AJ McCarron. At least one Steeler is hoping for a postseason rematch.
I think we’re all hoping for that rematch now.