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Steelers call Ravens, not Bengals, their top rival

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The Bengals beat the Steelers for the AFC North title last year, but that's not enough for some Pittsburgh players to consider Cincinnati their top rival.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are apparently afraid to even say the words 'Cincinnati' or 'Bengals.'

That's about the only way to explain various Steelers telling ESPN that the Baltimore Ravens were their top rival.

"I can't call it -- if I had to pick: Ravens," Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton said of who the Steelers' biggest rival is. "They got us last year. You want to get the win. That's more important."

It's rather funny the Steelers think that the Ravens, a team the Bengals have beaten five-straight times, are the bigger rival right now. Though, it's true, the Ravens do have an easier time beating the Steelers than the Bengals.

"I'd still say the Ravens," defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt said. "We've got to beat them. We beat Cincinnati. We have to beat the Ravens. It's been like that every time [with them]. That's not going to be a focal point. We're taking one game at a time, but especially with those two teams we have to beat them in the division."

The Ravens went 5-11 last year compared to the Bengals' 12-4 mark, but two of those Ravens wins came against the Steelers.

"With the Ravens, that's more in the trenches," Wheaton said. "With the Bengals, it's all over the field. Hopefully it doesn't get too rowdy [in 2016]."

That's at least true; hopefully the Bengals vs Steelers rivalry, whether it's the top rivalry in the AFC North or not, can stick to the game and not involve any injuries in 2016. The rivalry has included far too many injuries during the past two seasons including ones to Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Reggie Nelson, Dre Kirkpatrick and more players on both teams. Even Andy Dalton's Week 14 thumb injury came against the Steelers (though, that was a freak accident) as did Tyler Eifert's concussion (which wasn't an accident, but instead headhunting from Mike Mitchell).

I wouldn't put too much stock into something Tuitt and Wheaton are saying since they've not been relevant enough in either rivalry. That said, this seems like a slap in the face to the Bengals, which isn't much of a surprised based on the kind of remarks Pittsburgh players have made this offseason.

The Steelers seem more concerned with winning media battles instead of focusing solely on what they can control on the field. And whether they're winning or not, preparing to win games is what the Bengals have spent their time doing.