This week on The Players’ Tribune, Ed Reed and Hines Ward penned an article on what it's like to play football in the AFC North.
“That’s AFC North football. Old-school slugfests,” Reed writes. “The kind we grew up watching.”
The former Steelers wide receiver and Ravens safety had a lot of positive things to say about each other’s teams, but when it came to the Bengals... and Browns, for that matter, complimentary things were not part of the dialogue.
“We knew whoever won those Ravens-Steelers (games) was probably gonna win the division and have a chance to play for a championship,” Reed wrote, making it known that he didn’t see the Bengals as a threat.
Here’s what Ward had to say about the rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers:
Oh, yeah. We treated Steelers–Ravens like it was the Super Bowl.
I remember my rookie year, I walked into the facility early on a Monday morning — when it’s usually pretty empty — and the weight room was packed. Everybody was in there lifting. So I went up to one of the veteran guys like, “Damn … why is everybody in the weight room so early?”
He looked around and said, “Oh, ’cause it’s Purple Week.”
That’s what we called it. Purple Week. And we hated purple. If at any time you came into our facility wearing purple, you were asked to go home and change. If you came to practice wearing some purple Jordans, they wouldn’t be at your locker when you came back. Somebody would have thrown them in the trash can.
Reed said the Bengals had a few talented players, but, the kind words ended there.
“They always had great talent, with guys like Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and all those guys. But to this day, they’re still the Bengals,” Reed wrote. “They can’t get over the playoff hump. They haven’t really separated themselves from what they’ve been. And until they do that, they’re still the same old Bengals.”
Ward’s contribution to the Cincinnati discussion was mentioning that the Bengals never had a “true rivalry” with the Steelers.
“I remember when Houshmandzadeh wiped his shoes with the Terrible Towel. We didn’t like that too much,” Ward wrote. “But even then, there was never that hate. It was never a true rivalry. I think the Bengals are coming on strong now, with all the Vontaze Burfict stuff and fighting the Steelers at the top of the division. But it’s nowhere near what Steelers–Ravens was.”
(I’ll never pass on an opportunity to look back on Houshmandzadeh wiping his shoes with a Terrible Towel.)
What’s funny is that what makes Burfict so hated by the Ravens, Steelers, and the rest of the NFL is exactly what Ward claims was “so special” about the Steelers’ feud with the Ravens.
“Kick somebody’s ass,” Reed wrote. “I think that’s what made the rivalry so special. I don’t know about you, but my motto was, hit or be hit. That’s what Steelers–Ravens was all about.”