The animosity hasn’t changed. But the fear is gone.
Beginning in 1991, Pittsburgh won 46 of the next 60 games they played against the Bengals, including a string of 11 straight victories that started on December 13, 2015 and ran all the way to December 21, 2020.
The times, they are a changin’. Cincinnati has now won the last three meetings, including a last season’s 41-10 thrashing at home in the former Paul Brown Stadium.
Now, it is the Super Bowl runner-up Bengals who instill fear in the hearts of its opponents with one of the premier offenses in the National Football League, along with a defense that looks to take its place among the elite.
With Joe Burrow at quarterback and an outstanding receiving corps made up of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and new addition Hayden Hurst, a former first-round selection of the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati boasts a truly frightening aerial attack.
Add to that the talents of the always dangerous Joe Mixon, working behing a rebuilt offensive line that includes newcomers Le’el Collins, Ted Karras and Alex Cappa, rookie Cordell Volson and Jonah Williams, the only returning starter, and you have the makings of something truly spectacular.
On defense, the Bengals feature Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard at defensive ends with DJ Reader and BJ Hill as run-stoppers extraordinaire. Linebackers Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt give Cincinnati a presence over the middle that it has not had in way too many years.
The trio of Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple and Mike Hilton join safeties Jessie Bates, III, and Vonn Bell to form a secondary that, along with newcomers Dax Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt, is projected to be one of the best in football.
The fear may be gone, but the respect remains. Pittsburgh, despite the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, is still a force to be reckoned with.The Steelers tabbed former Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky as their starter, and he has plenty of weapons in All-Pro running back Najee Harris and receivers Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and George Pickens. The offensive line is the one big question mark of this unit that the Bengals hope to exploit.
On defense, Pittsburgh is led by perennial All-Pros TJ Watt and Cameron Heyward and added former Bengal Larry Ogunjobi. A healthy Devin Bush is back at his linebacker spot, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, who the Steelers recently made the highest-paid safety in football, patrols the secondary.
When all is said and done, though, only one team will emerge victorious. Who do you think that will be?
Who will win the season opener?
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