Back in 2015, the 8-0 Cincinnati Bengals were coming off their Week 9 bye and traveled to Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals managed to keep their undefeated season alive with a gutsy 16-10 victory.
It’s been over 1,800 days since that victory for the Bengals, and they haven’t beaten the Steelers since.
Five years later, it’s the Steelers who are 8-0 as the Bengals, once again, exit their bye week with a road game in Pittsburgh. 10 times have the Bengals faced the Steelers since that 2015 game, and 10 times, they’ve fallen short. Those 10 losses featured four different starting quarterbacks for the Bengals, and the Bengals will now be trotting out a true franchise quarterback against their most animus annual opponent.
Joe Burrow’s introduction into the Bengals-Steelers rivalry will have the attention of the entire country as the game’s kickoff got moved into the 4:25 nationally televised time-slot (WXIX-TV (Ch. 19) in Cincinnati). Three of Burrow’s five losses this season have come against AFC North opponents, and Burrow, nor head coach Zac Taylor, have yet to win a game on the road in their respective positions with the Bengals.
That fact alone makes it easy to understand why the Bengals are a full touchdown underdog in this game, but the Steelers aren’t 8-0 by accident. Their defense is a dominant unit that can wreck any offensive line it faces, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been healthy and playing safe and smart football. But Big Ben’s play is not the storyline that surrounds him entering this week.
On top of injuries to both of his knees, Roethlisberger is one of many players for both teams currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. This is the first time all season that the Bengals have had to deal with COVID-19 interfering with their preparations as a handful of their own players are currently unable to be with the team.
Roethlisberger should still be able to play so long as he tests negative for the coronavirus, but the current pandemic knows no boundaries, not even the bloodiest rivalry in all of football.
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