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NFL Week 13 Steelers at Bengals game preview: Steeling wins

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The Bengals face their arch nemesis this Monday night in a game that should define their 2017 season. Though the rivalry has been lopsided, can the Bengals get a win to propel them into the postseason?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When you call the relationship between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers a “rivalry”, many would scoff at the notion. It’s an understandable position, given the polarity in the wins and losses from the teams in their respective histories.

Despite how Steelers players and fans want to spin it though, and regardless of the disparity in the series, particularly under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are in Pittsburgh’s head. Whether you look at Le’Veon Bell’s inexplicable reaction to Joe Mixon’s comments, Vince Williams’ public threatened physical violence on Vontaze Burfict via Twitter, T.J. Houshmandzadeh wiping of his cleats with a “Terrible Towel” and everything in between, these are two teams who just don’t like each other.

Still, it can’t be overlooked how much both Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin have dominated Marvin Lewis in the divisional series from 2003-2017. With a 35-59 all-time record (good, or bad, for a .372 winning percentage) against the Steelers, including an 8-23 record under Lewis, we can understand why the Black and Yellow constantly puff out their collective chests.

None of those more heartbreaking than the 2005 and 2015 Wild Card losses. Still, think about that—23 losses to your most heated division rival in a 15 year span, with two of the most notorious ones in the postseason. It’s borderline heresy.

But, that was then and this is now.

Once again in 2017, both squads have their eyes on the postseason. The Steelers currently have the top seed in the AFC, while Cincinnati is nipping at the heels of the Bills, a team they beat in back in Week 5, who are sniffing the sixth seed.

Ironically, the Bengals and Steelers have switched scenarios from a few times we’ve seen in the Marvin Lewis era. By that, I mean that the Steelers are in control of the division and the Bengals are fighting for their postseason lives in the month of December.

Sure, Pittsburgh has often been in control of the AFC North, but in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015, Cincinnati ruled the division, while the Steelers fought to get into the January bracket. However, the difference is that the hard-nosed Steelers with their Steel Town roots tend to dig deep and find a way to make the playoffs.

And, like in so many other seasons, there are both statistics and performances that mirror each other and are polar opposites. The teams are No. 2 (Steelers) and No. 3 (Bengals) in quarterback sacks this year, yet the Steelers are seventh in overall offense, while the once-lethal Bengals offense is dead last in the league.

As it is in this series, there are a few wild cards which could determine the outcome. For this Monday night, For one, headhunter Mike Mitchell appears as if he won’t be suiting up this week with, of all things, an ankle injury.

The other, and one that isn’t exclusive, is A.J. Green. For all of the great things that Chad Johnson did for the Bengals, he simply didn’t step up against the Steelers. Green has, even though only three of those wins have come under the future Hall of Fame receivers’ watch.

And, of course, this upcoming game can’t be talked about without mentioning the Bengals’ issues in primetime. For most fan bases, the idea of watching their team on the biggest stage brings excitement.

For Who Dey Nation though, it usually breeds feelings of anxiety. Marvin Lewis’ team routinely stumbles over their own feet on the biggest stages—and often against these Steelers.

Aside from just beating the Steelers this week and losing no more than one game the rest of the season to get into the playoffs, it’s the venue that the Bengals need to conquer. Beating the Steelers is one thing, but beating them with the nation watching is another.

Unfortunately, conquering beasts just isn’t in the DNA of Lewis and the Bengals. And, this team is also prone to taking two steps forward and four back.

I want to say the Bengals win. They just still have more to prove at this point.

This is a game where the heart may tell Bengals fans that things are finally in their favor, but the head says otherwise. For so many reasons, I think it’s a hard-fought game, in which Cincinnati makes a good impression. But, unfortunately, “good” isn’t good enough this time of year—particularly against a decorated team like the Steelers.

Steelers 26, Bengals 20

AC — Sometimes you have to see to believe—even this time of year.