It’s obvious that the Steelers are the Bengals’ top rival in the eyes of Cincinnati fans, but if you ask a Pittsburgh die-hard, you might get a different answer. Steelers fans usually scoff at the notion of Cincinnati being their biggest rivals, but with public comments made by the likes of Ben Roethlisberger about players on the Bengals’ defense, it’s obvious they’ve gotten under Steel Town’s skin.
Still, Steelers fans can easily point to an all-time 58-35 record in their favor when they beat their chest on history, pointing to the lopsided nature of the rivalry.
A new study by two professors have ranked rivalries in professional sports. Joe Cobbs of Northern Kentucky University and David Tyler of Western Carolina University have worked on a project analyzing rivalries from a fan perspective. Their work can be found at the website knowrivalry.com.
Cobbs and Tyler surveyed fans and gave each member of a respective fan base 100 points to divvy out among 10 teams they felt were their team’s biggest rivals. Cincinnati’s faithful gave 62 points on average toward the Steelers as their biggest rival.
Steelers fans, on the other hand, gave 64 percent to the Baltimore Ravens, while the Bengals were second with an average of just 11 points. It’s second-most disparate ranking in the survey among NFL teams with the Patriots-Colts being the only more-lopsided rivalry.
“Locally, it can lead to feeling disrespected when you realize they (Steelers fans) don’t view it as being as important as you do,” Cobbs told Steve Watkins of The Cincinnati Business Courier. “Rivalry drives ticket and broadcast demand, fosters stronger fan identification with favorite teams and affects sponsorship activation strategies as sponsors seek involvement with prominent games that evoke enduring loyalties rather than a waning, one-sided competition.”
Cobbs also believes that this data could play a role in the NFL’s development of sponsorship opportunities, as well as in the league’s selection of which games to put on primetime. While the Steelers-Bengals rivalry has been slated for primetime in recent years, Baltimore-Pittsburgh on the national stage has been almost an annual occurrence for quite some time.
In terms of the Bengals’ other AFC North rivals, the Browns and Ravens are essentially ranked equally in the study by Bengals fans, averaging about 17 points apiece, while the 49ers came in fourth. Around the NFL, it may come as a surprise to some that the rivalry between the Saints and Falcons is the “most intense” by the standards set by Cobbs and Tyler.
Are the Steelers the Bengals’ biggest rival in your eyes? Do you feel a sense of disrespect from the perspective of Steelers fans on the Bengals, as Cobb notes?