Ben Roethlisberger Sounds off About Fear of ‘Dirty’ Division Rival

Getty Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger reacts on the field.

The intensely fierce rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals was arguably some of the most violent modern-era football ever played. The pure animosity between the two AFC North teams was thick, and there’s no question players on both sides were out for blood.

This atmosphere was particularly intense during the days of Steelers greats Antonio Brown, Ryan Shazier and Cincinnati’s savage Vontaze Burfict. It lasted until the day Burfict, long considered the dirtiest player in football, was forced out of the NFL and never asked to return.

Who can forget the vicious helmet-to-helmet hit by Burfict on Brown, which spun the receiver around and flung him to the ground? And, of course, there was JuJu Smith-Schuster’s crackback on Burfict seeking revenge for his teammate.

Dating back even further to 2008, Steelers legend Hines Ward hit rookie linebacker Keith Rivers with a block jolting enough to break Rivers’ jaw.

That’s the kind of nasty physicality these two teams brought each bi-annual (sometimes more) brawl.

Steelers former franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recalled those crazy days on episode two of his new Footbalin podcast.

Ben Roethlisberger Sounds Off on Bengals

Ben Roethlisberger went into detail about the animosity between his former team and the Bengals. It was a physical style of play that went largely unmatched in the NFL.

“I always hated playing Cincinnati,” Roethlisberger said. “When you played Baltimore, you knew it was gonna be a physical football game. But it was gonna be physical in the sense that two teams were just going out, and they were gonna pound and grind. Clean, just physical.

Roethlisberger shared that he was fearful something would happen to him during these Bengals battles.

“When you played Cincinnati – there was a stretch of games there, years there when you played them – you almost like didn’t wanna play. Like I’ll be honest, there were times I was almost like fearful to play because I was afraid I was gonna get hurt because of something dirty, something cheap. Something whatever.”

When asked about the 2015 wild card matchup, Roethlisberger said that Bengals fans threw debris at him as he was carted off the field after suffering an arm injury. In the waning seconds of the third quarter, Roethlisberger was hurt on a sack by Burfict but returned to lead them to an incredible 18-16 win.

Steelers-Bengals Trash Talkin’

While it’s safe to say the Cincinnati Bengals no longer have that “dirty” stigma surrounding them, bad blood still exists between the Pittsburgh Steelers and them.

And, certainly, trash talk will always exist between teams, especially heated rivals. Cincinnati swept Pittsburgh last season for the first time in decades, and it’s left a bad taste in the Steelers’ mouths.

“I don’t like any of ’em,” Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said in a September 8 press conference.

After the Week 3 2021 home game in which the Steelers fell to the Bengals 24-10, Cincinnati receiver Tyler Boyd didn’t shy away from his feelings on their opponent.

“You could see it,” said Boyd. “They had three drops in a row and for a team to see that is just giving us more power — giving us the antidote to know how good we are. So for a team to just lay down like that before the game is over, no matter what, no matter how much we are losing by I know me and I know us. We aren’t giving up. We are going to try to make plays and make something happen. But they portrayed it to the whole nation on TV, what they are and how they gave up.

Steelers-Bengals Renewed Rivalry

What’s interesting is the Cincinnati Bengals had some bad seasons when their rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers was at its fiercest. Like 6-9-1, 2-14 kind of bad. The Steelers were 15-3 from 2012 to 2018, which included a streak of eight consecutive wins (that continued beyond Vontaze Burfict’s departure from Cincinnati).

Just as the trash-talking, the level of competition never really subsided between these two storied franchises. The level is even higher now with Cincinnati’s shiny new face of the franchise in second-year quarterback Joe Burrow.

The script has been flipped after losing three consecutive games to the Bengals. Pittsburgh hopes to flip it back in Week 1 on September 11.