Following an emotional road win over the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals, Marcus Gilbert tweeted “all I want for Christmas is the Bengals. Would love to see them in the playoffs where they choke.”
Of course, this desire to face one another again stems from the extra-curricular activities that have taken place in each game. Both teams have lost key contributors to injury in this rivalry. In the first meeting, the Steelers lost star running back Le’Veon Bell for the season to a torn MCL, and this past week, Andy Dalton broke his thumb after throwing an interception.
The two rivals have not hidden their distaste toward one another, as a pre-game scuffle and questionable cheap shots overshadowed a game with serious playoff implications. Vontaze Burfict – the same player who injured Le’Veon Bell – went low while tackling Ben Roethlisberger and continues to exacerbate his reputation around the league as a dirty player. Likely facing a fine from the NFL, the Bengals will need their stud linebacker to stay out of trouble if they are to win the division for the second time in three years.
While Cincinnati appears to be a lock for the postseason for the fifth consecutive year, the Steelers are battling for their playoff lives. Currently tied at 8-5 with the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, the Steelers should focus more on winning their remaining three games, and less on who they want to face come playoff time.
If they don’t, it will be a very sad holiday season for Steeler Nation.