When it comes to the Steelers-Bengals rivalry there is no secret about it.
These games get physical.
“It’s AFC North football,” said Ben Roethlisberger. “It’s one of those games that can get chippy at times. You hope it doesn’t. You hope it’s a good, hard-fought football game. Sometimes it gets a little chippy. We’ll do our best to put the past behind us and play it like it’s a normal football game.
“We’re going to go in and play the game like it’s a normal game, AFC North, physical football game. We can only control half of the players out there. We know how important this game is for us to get a ‘W.’”
Last year’s meeting resulted in the Bengals being penalized 13 times for a team record 173 yards, while the Steelers were penalized seven times for 66 yards. There were four unnecessary roughness calls, an unsportsmanlike conduct call and taunting call that was declined between the two teams combined. And with the new rule changes this year to protect the quarterback, the hope is the ‘chippy’ factor is cut back.
“Some of the stuff that happens in that game, the rules were made for it before that,” said Roethlisberger. “It’s not about just the physicality of the football game to me, it’s when it gets the extracurricular, the dirty stuff you wish would be cut out of it and hope it is this time.”
Playing clean, penalty free football is going to be a key. The Bengals lead the AFC North with a 4-1 record, while the Steelers are searching for their first AFC win of the season, and come in with a 0-1-1 record in the division. It won’t be easy, going against a defense that always is fired up for this matchup and looks just as menacing as ever under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
“When you have the players that they have, the talent that they have, at some point you line up and let them play,” said Roethlisberger. “You are still seeing their 4-3, their coverages. They just have a lot of good football players that make plays. I think they use their front four and seven to get after the quarterback and make you throw it quick.
“(Carlos) Dunlap seems like he can be five yards away from you and an arm will still find a way to get the ball or get you down. You think he is far enough away, but he seems to somehow always be around the ball. You don’t think about that a lot when you talk about pass rushers, being around the ball. Usually that is secondary guys. He has a knack for finding it. What an awesome challenge for us.”
Another player who will be a challenge is Vontaze Burfict, who returned to action last week against the Dolphins after being suspended for the first four games of the season, and also battled a hamstring and ankle injury in the preseason. Roethlisberger said you need to know where he is on the field because of the impact he can make.
“He is a good football player,” said Roethlisberger. “Honestly, I have said this to him on the football field. He is a phenomenal football player. Very smart. Physical. Can make all of the plays. You need to know where he is in that sense because of how good he is.”
More from Ben:
On what he learned about the offense against the Falcons:
“I think we just got to see what we know we are capable of doing.”
On why things went so well offensively:
“Guys did their job. We talk about not trying to do too much, do more than just your job. I tell the guys before the game that us collectively, if we all do our jobs, we are pretty darn good. As long as we don’t try to do too much. I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
On how he would use James Conner when Le’Veon Bell returns:
“It’s a good thing I am not the coach. I think James has done some amazing things, deserves to be on the football field. We also know what Le’Veon is and what he brings to the table. I guess we will cross that bridge if/when it happens.”
On if Conner needs to be more consistent:
“I don’t know that there has been much down. I guess if you are saying in terms of rushing yards. But if you look at the overall picture of what we have asked him to do every week, it’s been going up every week. That gets lost in what a running back does and he has been doing. Pass blocking, picking up the blitz, catching the ball out of the backfield. I don’t want to jinx anything, but he has caught almost everything I have thrown to him. He is in the right spot every time quickly. I know we talk about in terms of yards rushing, you might see it up and down but in terms of just football player and running back play, it’s been going up every week.”
On what having two backs could do for the offense:
“I think keeping guys fresh. That is important. You don’t want to wear one guy down. You saw last week James would go for a while and then (Stevan) Ridley would come in and get some blows. That would be important when Le’Veon comes back that both guys stay fresh when they are on the field.”
On someone being critical of Conner’s blitz pick up:
“I think he has been doing a great job. He has done more than run the ball and catch. He is picking up blitzes and doing exactly what we ask him to do."