The Pittsburgh Steelers will have a difficult task ahead of them on Sunday. Not only are they opening the season on the road against a division rival, but they are also playing against the reigning AFC Champions in the Cincinnati Bengals. While we as fans know how deep the rivalry runs, some new members to the team are having the message conveyed to them about how “real” it is.
Realism of a Rivalry
Rookie wide receiver, George Pickens is the newest addition to the classic heated matchup. Many of Pickens’s teammates have been instilling their knowledge into him, to better prepare him for what’s to come. Considering the circumstances surrounding the game, including it being his first regular season game of his professional career, Pickens is excited to go out and play in a non-preseason game. In a recent interview, Pickens said that he believes this rivalry with the Bengals is “real.”
“They told me it’s a real rivalry. I thought everything is the same playing field, where you play doesn’t matter. But the Bengals is a real rivalry toward us being the Steelers.”
History of Harshness
The history of this rivalry has had plenty of big names involved, especially at the wide out position. Whether it was Hines Ward and Antonio Brown for Pittsburgh, or Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for Cincinnati, big time players made big time plays for their teams. These types of plays helped set the tone for whenever these two teams clashed. This year, Pickens will line up alongside Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool to face off against reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. These two talented trios could help elevate the significance in this AFC North battle, however Boyd may have already stoked the fire with his comments from last year.
Fighting the Flames
During a Week 3 matchup in Pittsburgh last year, the Steelers were defeated by the Bengals 24-10. After the game, Boyd made a comment about how the Steelers didn’t play with a lot of effort, especially during the closing moments of the contest:
“The last plays for them, they gave up. You could see it. For a team to just lay down like that before the game is over, they portrayed it to the whole nation on TV with what they were about and how they gave up, so we just gotta take advantage.”
Those comments hurt even more when Pittsburgh lost in Cincinnati later in the season, going 0-2 against the Bengals in 2021. However, things won’t be quite the same starting this weekend.
Settling Things on Sunday
It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but the Cincinnati Bengals accomplished a great deal last season. They won the division, the AFC Championship, and nearly a Super Bowl on top of it all. Even though they had all that success, guys like George Pickens aren’t scared to go out and execute regardless of who their opponents are:
“That’s a big stigma on it since they did play in it last year against the Rams,” Pickens said. “But it’s a new record. Everybody is 0-0. We’re going to have a lot of fun. Just going to compete.”
I truly agree with Pickens’s statement. What happened last year doesn’t matter now that it’s in the past. The first game of a new season is a clean slate for all teams, including Pittsburgh. The 2021 team may not have been the best team, but they weren’t that bad either. The 2022 Steelers are poised to march into Paycor Stadium, go and compete like Pickens said, and hopefully walk away with the victory on Sunday.
Do you believe the Cincinnati Bengals are a “real rival?” Let us know down in the comments.